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Public Statements

Column - American Workers, Unions and the Right to a Secret Ballot


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Each election, American voters cast their votes by secret ballot, with the freedom to make the decisions they think are best for the country. This freedom is so simple that many of us probably don't even think about it when we go to the polls. While simple, it's very important that we have the freedom to vote our conscience in this country. My wife says she voted for me, but there's no way I can know that for certain. That's her right, and the right of every American citizen. So why can't the same be said for union elections?

In recent years, Democratic Party leaders have been aggressively trying to do away with the right to a secret ballot in favor of their preferred method of recognition: a simple check of signed cards requesting a union. Card check allows the workplace to be organized if 50% of workers at the site sign a union card. For me, there is no right more precious for any American than the right to a secret ballot. It's how the President of the United States, members of Congress, and even union leaders are elected. I strongly believe in preserving the individual worker's right to vote by secret ballot before joining a union.

Because I feel so strongly that men and women should have the right to a secret ballot, last week I reintroduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act (SBPA). This legislation ensures workers have the right to a secret ballot when voting to certify or decertify a union. My bill will not only protect against any attempts to implement card check, but it will also ensure individual workers have a say in their representation.

Since card check legislation failed to pass Congress when Democrats were in the majority in the House, many are concerned that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will attempt to bypass the Congressional approval process. Passage of the SBPA will prevent card check from happening and alleviate concerns.

Specifically, the SBPA prevents companies from negotiating with a union that does not receive the support of a majority of the workers in a secret ballot vote, and prohibits card-check recognition. The SBPA will also protect the workers by ensuring there is fair representation and transparency in the deals made between unions and management.

Without secret ballots, workers are susceptible to intimidation, harassment, pressure and potentially threats to vote in a certain way. Card check causes a high pressure and one-sided sales pitch. Alternatively, the SBPA empowers workers to make informed choices and protects workers from this sort of intimidation.

I have no problem with employees who want to form a union, but the process to establish a union must be open, transparent and fair. Transparency and openness begins with ensuring every worker the right to make his or her own decision about whether they want to be in a union, free from intimidation or coercion -- by the union or the employer. As Chairman of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee, I will continue to fight to protect jobs and the American worker.
Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.

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