Organized labor has demonstrated why workers should spend some time this Thanksgiving giving thanks for the secret ballot. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) “have been sparring for the right to represent 10,000 home health-care workers” in California. The SEIU has not exactly been using kid gloves. One SEIU organizer admitted that “he was encouraged ‘to pressure voters to change the ballot’ and that on one occasion he himself changed a vote to SEIU’s favor.” Other workers reported that SEIU organizers made frequent unwanted trips to their homes and threatened that workers’ would lose their wages and benefits if they voted for the other union.
But it is not just union members that unions intimidate. The New York Times details how one union treats its own organizers:
Ms. Rivera and other current and former Unite Here organizers are speaking out against what they say is a longstanding practice in which Unite Here officials pressured subordinates to disclose sensitive personal information — for example, that their mother was an alcoholic or that they were fighting with their spouse …
More than a dozen organizers said in interviews that they had often been pressured to detail such personal anguish — sometimes under the threat of dismissal from their union positions — and that their supervisors later used the information to press them to comply with their orders …
Several organizers grew incensed when they discovered that details of their history had been put into the union’s database so that supervisors could use that information to manipulate them.
These allegations are right out of On the Waterfront. If that is how unions treat each other now, what would they do if Congress stripped workers of the protection of the secret ballot.
Legislation before Congress – the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act — effectively eliminates secret ballot organizing elections. Instead of workers voting on a union in the privacy of the voting booth, they would publicly sign a union card – in the presence of union organizers. Unions would know exactly who was for them and who was not.
Enormous amounts of money are on the line when workers vote on unionizing – unions’ collect 1 to 2 percent of their members earnings as mandatory dues. This money creates enormous incentives for union organizers to pressure reluctant employees to sign on the dotted line. If union organizers will threaten, manipulate, and harass union members and union employees, just imagine what they would do to nonunion workers. So this Thanksgiving American workers should pause and give thanks for the secret ballot.