Mickey Kaus and his “alert reader D” call our attention to a discussion of “card check” legislation between former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and SEIU chief Andy Stern. Reich isn’t exactly a tough questioner in this context, but he does attempt to explain to Stern the “perception” in favor of requiring unions to win elections conducted by secret ballot before they are allowed to represent workers. Stern’s response is so poor that even Reich seems unsatisfied. Reich admits to being an “open door” on this issue; yet Stern struggles to enter the room.
In essence, Stern argues that a union election isn’t like the elections we have in the U.S. in which we choose, for example, the members of Congress. According to Stern, a union election is the equivalent of an election over whether we should have a Congress.
The question-begging nature of Stern’s argument is evident. Stern simply assumes that the desirability of having a particular union, no matter how thuggish or corrupt, represent a particular set of employees is as self-evident as the desirability of having Congress represent the people of the United States; therefore the issue need not be put to a proper vote. Under this absurd reasoning, it’s not clear why unions should even have to obtain authorization cards, and there’s little doubt that Stern would like them to be exempt from even this requirement.
Moreover, as Stern surely understands, secret ballot elections in this country are not confined to selecting one individual as opposed to another. The secret ballot is also used to vote up or down an a wide variety of propositions pertaining to state and local governance. No principled argument exists for allowing unions to evade an up or down vote conducted in accordance with normal democratic procedures.
Recognizing the futility of Stern’s argument, Reich relies on the assumption that employer coercion is rampant, an assumption he fails to support. In any case, such coercion is unlawful and an appartus, the National Labor Relations Board, exists to enforce the prohibition. If the NLRB is inadequate under current law, the answer (as Reich at one point seems to recognize) is to beef it up. And Reich simply ignores the obvious prospect that unions will use coercion to obtain card signatures.
You can see the Stern-Reich discussion here:
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