Barrasso: Protect Workers' Secret Ballot

Voting is a fundamental right.  The secret ballot is what guarantees a true expression of opinion.  Americans take part in the strong tradition of voting by secret ballot for their elected representatives from President of the United States to the members of their city council.

Voting gives men and women a voice as well as the power to decide what is in his or her best interest.  The same right for a secret ballot should continue to be given to individuals choosing how they are represented in the workforce.  It is a cornerstone of our democracy and must be protected.    

Union leaders are trying to take away the secret ballot.  They are trying to prohibit employees from exercising their right to vote for representation in a private and secure manner.  

Under current law, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees secret-ballot elections to determine if a union will be authorized to represent employees.  The NLRB conducts a secret ballot election after a petition supported by a substantial number of employees, at least 30 percent, is filed.  

The process of deciding on union representation by secret ballot allows an employee to freely express his or her opinion without fear of threats, intimidation, or retribution.

Workers are at risk of losing the freedom to make this important employment decision in private.  The Card Check bill, misleadingly titled “Employee Free Choice Act,” would replace secret-ballot elections with a card-check process.  Under this bill, the NLRB must certify the union as the exclusive bargaining representative for employees without an election once the union submits signatures from the majority of the employees.  

Workers would be required to publicly select, in front of union organizers and co-workers, whether or not to join a union.  By imposing a practice of publicly signing union cards, union officials strip away the rights of American workers.

The card check provisions could have a devastating impact on our small businesses.  Neither the current law nor the proposed legislation explicitly exempt small businesses.  
The National Labor Relations Act currently applies to retail businesses with sales over $500,000 a year and non-retail businesses with sales of over $50,000 a year.  The current law provides time for both sides to show the benefits and consequences of union representation.  

With the proposed expedited union process, small businesses could quickly find themselves faced with union contract negotiation, unauthorized labor practices, and other changes greatly impacting their companies.

In the land of the free, there is no room for the endorsement of workplace intimidation, threats, and harassment.  The decisions to join or form a union are important to workers.  Employment decisions directly affect an individual’s ability to support their family, to pay their bills, and to sustain a livelihood.  

It is important to provide a secret ballot to individuals making decisions that deeply impact their lives.  Workers’ choices must be well informed and free from the fear of retribution.  Enacting this type of legislation does not promote either of these purposes.

As United States Senator, I was elected through a secret ballot election process to fight for the best interest of the people of Wyoming.  American workers have come to expect and deserve to cast a secret ballot.  

I intend to ensure that democracy in the workplace is preserved.  In June 2007, I voted against the “Employee Free Choice Act.”  I am committed to fighting for the workers of Wyoming and our nation by continuing to oppose this legislation.