Alexander, Corker Support Legislation to Protect Workers’ Rights to Secret Ballot Union Elections

February 25th, 2009 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today announced they are original cosponsors of legislation to guarantee American workers are given the protection of secret-ballot union elections, which would protect them from intimidation or coercion. The Secret Ballot Protection Act of 2009, introduced today by U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), would amend the National Labor Relations Act to ensure that, when deciding whether or not to form a union, workers are guaranteed the right to make their decision in a private manner—just as every voter has the right to do when voting for their elected officials.

“There are few American rights more fundamental than the secret ballot, whether it’s a vote for President or Mayor, or to unionize a workplace,” said Alexander, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has jurisdiction over this issue. “American workers – particularly in right-to-work states like Tennessee – deserve to be able to vote their consciences without having to worry about potential retaliation. Guaranteeing the secret ballot gives workers the freedom to make their decisions based on the merits rather than pressure from unions or management.”

Corker, who was a member of the laborers’ union as a young man and later as an employer served on the health and pension fund board of a carpenters’ union, said, “The right to cast a secret ballot is a principle central to our democracy and compromising that right creates too great a temptation for outside forces to exert unreasonable influence on the process. As anyone who’s ever been on a job site can tell you, without the protection of a secret ballot, workers can be exposed to union leaders strong arming and picking off workers one by one – intimidating them into signing cards to organize a union. I believe that most Americans and rank-and-file union workers who truly understand what this bill means would support it.”

The Secret Ballot Protection Act is designed to uphold a fundamental principle of American democracy—the private vote. By requiring that all efforts to organize unions be handled by secret ballot, each individual worker has the choice to decide—in private—if they believe it is in their best interest to support or oppose that effort. It would reduce any public pressure that could be placed upon individuals by either their employer or fellow employees, which would reduce intimidation and strengthen freedom.

This bill is in contrast to the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act,” championed by union leaders. That bill, which Alexander and Corker strongly oppose, would allow the decision on whether or not to form a union to be made by publicly signing cards requesting a union (a process also known as “card check”), which does not ensure a worker’s right to choose privately if they want to support or oppose the organizing effort.

Alexander and Corker are among 16 original cosponsors of the Secret Ballot Protection Act, which also include John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and David Vitter (R-La.).