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June 19, 2007

The Secret Vote Club

Mitch McConnell is very, very concerned about the Employee Free Choice Act's abrogation of the secret ballot. In this he joins such electoral process wonks as Mickey Kaus and the Chamber of Commerce, all of whom seem to forget their fealty to small-d democracy when elections (with their attendant suppression) come around, and rediscover it whenever the unions want card check.

But fine: Let's separate one from the other. I'll happily accept a sort of card check where a majority of cards trigger an instant secret election (no time for captive meetings, etc), where penalties for employers firing unionizing workers are severe (maybe $100,000 for smaller companies and a $1 million for larger corporations?), where captive meetings are outlawed and threats are actionable. There are many ways to clamp down on employer intimidation. The test for someone like McConnell -- or Kaus, or the others -- is whether they support any of them, or have just alit on some brand new affection for the secret vote in order to kill a pro-union measure they loathe.

June 19, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Both Kaus and McConnell hate democracy. It is a shame that Reid doesn't call McConnell on stuff like this. A better politician would use such tactics to paint McConnell in a box. Make McConnell show his true stripes.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience | Jun 19, 2007 10:05:50 AM

We need to stiffen penalties for illegal union busting. Problem is, card check doesn't do that, it just makes the average worker more subject to intimidation by labor as well as continued intimidation by his employer.

Stiffen the penalties, keep the vote.

And if you are going to have card check, at least be intellectually honest about it and allow decert of the union by the same process.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Jun 19, 2007 10:53:01 AM

I think people need to think about this issue a little more deeply. Why do we have the secret ballot at all? It's a somewhat more recent invention than you'd think, with the US adopting it about 125 years ago. I actually think the secret ballot ought to be abolished for most voting in the US. We're not a former totalitarian country where people have good reason to fear reprisals or anything. Politics is a public activity in which we should be responsible to each other for the choices we make, and the secret ballot just encourages the attitude that voting is a private matter. It isn't. (Given all that, I obviously have no problem with cardcheck or "majority signup" as the kewl kidz are kalling it these days.)

Posted by: secrecy skeptic | Jun 19, 2007 12:21:10 PM

I wonder if Kaus and other born again defenders of secret ballot have publicly opposed vote-by-mail. Oregon I believe is entirely vote by mail. Washington State, is mixed, but Thurston County, where I live is 100% vote-by-mail. You can, of course, show your ballot to anyone you choose before you mail it.

Posted by: Gar Lipow | Jun 19, 2007 12:32:10 PM

Perhaps Oregon elections offer a better model. All voting is done by mail over a two-week period before the actual election date (voting counting date). The ballot is marked - without indication of the voter's name) and inserted in a privacy envelope. The privacy envelope is in turn inserted into a mailing envelope which the voter must sign on the rear - and which contains identifying info. All votes are checked against registration cards for authenticity of the signature before the ballot envelopes are put into the counting pile.

For a union election, this Oregon-style voting could provide the advantages of card check (a period to accumulate votes without the employer knowing of the election and retaliating) with the anonomous voting that a secret ballot provides.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 19, 2007 12:33:49 PM

Given the stories of people getting fired for the political bumper stickers on their cars, etc., I think some people continue to have good reason to fear reprisals.

Posted by: Karla | Jun 19, 2007 12:33:49 PM

I'd endorse these, but with some tweaks: if you allege "union-busting" and you don't prove it, the union is shut down, and the leadership goes to jail. That's a fair trade for the penalty on the other side, isn't it?

Posted by: Thomas | Jun 19, 2007 2:45:28 PM

I'll happily accept a sort of card check where a majority of cards trigger an instant secret election (no time for captive meetings, etc), where penalties for employers firing unionizing workers are severe (maybe $100,000 for smaller companies and a $1 million for larger corporations?), where captive meetings are outlawed and threats are actionable.

I'm not sure "captive meetings" can be outlawed, or rather that it would be upheld in court, and I'm not sure they should be outlawed. But the rest is good, pretty much (not sure about the proposed penalties--depends on how they're determined).

It is a shame that Reid doesn't call McConnell on stuff like this. A better politician would use such tactics to paint McConnell in a box.

Wouldn't work. McConnell will just claim that he's the one concerned about democracy, and preventing voter fraud.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 19, 2007 3:50:30 PM

Perhaps, McConnell should resign since all of the voting he does in the Senate is out in the open. Granted, occassionally he just mumbles during a voice vote so I guess which side he was on remains secret.

Posted by: rabble | Jun 20, 2007 8:59:47 AM

Better penalty, Ezra: $10,000 per full-time-equivalent.

Posted by: Rick | Jun 20, 2007 10:24:02 AM

mitch mcconnell, mickey kaus, and the chamber of commerce -- now there's an unholy trinity!

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Posted by: judy | Oct 8, 2007 9:12:20 AM

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