Argument: EFCA preserves employee choice with majority sign-up voting

Issue Report: Employee Free Choice Act


“The Employee Free Choice Act”. Campaign for America’s Future. – “American workers should have the freedom to choose a majority sign-up system. Ever since the Great Depression, the law has allowed workers to form a union when a majority has signed authorization cards and those cards are validated. But it is currently the corporation’s choice—not the workers’ choice—whether to follow that process.

A number of responsible employers have agreed to a majority sign-up process. Companies such as Cingular Wireless, Kaiser Permanente, and DaimlerChrysler have allowed employees to choose by majority sign-up whether to have a union. Those companies have found that majority sign-up is an effective way to gauge workers’ free choice—and it results in less hostility and polarization in the workplace than the current representation process.”

“The Employee Free Choice Act: it’s not about voting, it’s about choosing”. TPM Cafe. 24 Oct. 2008 – If a President Obama takes office in January and congress increases its Democratic majority, one of the main progressive pieces of legislation that might get passed is the Employee Free Choice Act. This would, among other things, allow workers to join unions on the basis of what is called a card check sign up. In the case of card check, an employer agrees to the unionization of a workplace when the majority of workers there sign cards in favor of joining a union. Since this is an alternative to the administration of a (secret ballot) election administered by the National Labor Relations Board, union opponents deride card check as anti-democratic. It is not too early to begin pushing back against this argument.

At first glance, it might seem obvious that union opponents are right. Surely a secret ballot election run by the federal government (NLRB) is the gold standard of democracy. If workers want something else, doesn’t that mean that they’re afraid to fight it out in a ‘free and fair’ election?

The answer is no. This anti-union argument is based on a fundamental confusion. Although elections may be at the heart of our democratic system, they are not at the heart of democracy itself. The heart of democracy is free choice. For obvious reasons, secret ballots have proven themselves extremely useful as ways of allowing, promoting and preserving people’s free choice. But they are a means and not an end in themselves. And like any means, there may be circumstances in which they fail to promote their intended end.

The point should be obvious. A secret ballot election in which one candidate is vastly more powerful than the other, and in which representatives of that stronger candidate stand outside the voting booth cracking their knuckles in a sinister way, for example, would not be conducive to freedom of choice. It would clearly be a case of intimidation, despite the fact that the election used secret ballots. Elections in which one candidate is given easy access to the electorate in order to present its case but in which the other candidate is prohibited from comparable access would not promote free choice, even if they involved secret ballots. In short, there is a lot more to an election than the mere act of casting a vote.