Secret-ballot elections help. ensure fairness

Freedom New Mexico

American presidents usually have a fairly brief honeymoon period during which they can get almost anything on their agenda enacted, after which a degree of healthy skepticism sets in and Congress starts to dig in its heels.

As he demonstrated in Cairo last week, President Obama is still enjoying something of a honeymoon with the world at large, but here at home his domestic agenda is starting to run into some headwinds.

The most obvious example is what is known to supporters as the Employee Free Choice Act and to opponents as “card check.” This bill, the key item on the agenda of labor unions that backed President Obama, would change the way unions are certified to represent employees in businesses.

Under current law employers have the right to call for a secret-ballot election when a union moves to organize employees. If the free choice act were to pass, that procedure would be bypassed and a union would be certified if a majority of employees signed cards openly to indicate their support for a union.

Union organizers say workers trying to organize businesses are routinely harassed and intimidated, while business interests say workers are sometimes intimidated by union organizers into signing a card. There is probably something to what both sides say.

Prospects for the legislation dimmed considerably when California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter, who had supported similar legislation in the past, decided to oppose the bill.

Feinstein said driving up the cost of doing business, which making it easier to organize unions would do, when the economy is struggling, is just not a good idea. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business agree, and are working hard to defeat the bill.

Sponsors are trying to come up with a compromise, and last week unveiled a group called Business Leaders for a Fair Economy in support of the proposal.

This proposal deserves to fail. A secret-ballot election is the best way to minimize intimidation from either the union or management side. Eliminating it would open the door to possible abuses — and possibly lead to increased costs for businesses already struggling to cope with the recession.