Critics of the Employee Free Choice Act have called it a misnomer – a law that would, in fact, restrict workers’ free choice. EFCA would effectively eliminate secret ballots in union elections and replace them with “card check,” in which workers publicly sign petitions to join unions. Analysts warn that depriving workers of the privacy of the voting booth would lead to widespread intimidation and that card-check does not reflect workers’ true desires.

Leading unions, such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), dismiss these fears and argue that publicly-signed petitions are the best way for workers to express their views about belonging to a union.

Or, at least, that is what the SEIU said before tens of thousands of its dues-paying members signed petitions, asking to be represented by a different union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). The Los Angeles Times reports that:

For years, the powerful Service Employees International Union has played a lead role in the campaign for a landmark federal law that would allow workers to join a labor organization simply by signing petitions.

Now, as part of a high-stakes battle in California, the union is urging federal officials to throw out petitions signed by tens of thousands of its own members who have asked to be represented by a rival upstart group.”

The SEIU seems to believe that publicly-signed petitions only express workers’ “free choice” when they are petitions to pay SEIU dues. But when they are petitions to join another union, the SEIU agrees that publicly signed union cards are unreliable. At least they have it half right.

In rejecting the cards collected by NUHW organizers, the SEIU silently concedes that card-check would not benefit American workers. Workers know this, which is why they overwhelmingly oppose the bill. This is just one more reason Congress should think twice before taking away the privacy of the voting booth.