DeMint, Enzi Introduce Secret Ballot Protection Act

Bill would guarantee workers’ right to secret ballot vote, stop efforts by union bosses to force undemocratic “card check”

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, and Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act (SBPA), legislation that will guarantee the right of American workers to have a secret ballot election on whether to unionize.

“Voting by secret ballot is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and it’s time to guarantee this basic right for every American worker,” said Senator DeMint. “The Secret Ballot Protection Act is urgently needed to stop the growing attacks on workers’ rights. Unfortunately, current law does not guarantee a secret ballot; it can be waived by employers. Even worse, Democrats have teamed up with union bosses to completely eliminate secret ballot votes in the workplace, and instead impose a mandatory ‘card check.’ Under this undemocratic ‘card check’ system, workers are forced to sign cards in support of a union without a secret ballot election, which allows bullying and peer pressure to influence votes. ‘Card check’ is completely unacceptable and un-American, and we must pass the Secret Ballot Protection Act to safeguard workers’ rights for good.”

“Americans get a private ballot when they choose their President, their Congressmen, their local councilmen, even their PTA leaders -- why should they not have the same right in the workplace?” said Senator Enzi. “Working Americans deserve to choose what’s right for themselves without fear, coercion or pressure, and without having to publicly disclose or defend their views to hostile coworkers or unions. The right to a private ballot is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, and the Secret Ballot Protection Act will uphold that right for America’s workers. I commend Senator DeMint and all co-sponsors of this bill for their efforts to protect workers from intimidation and preserve free, fair, and private elections.”

SBPA has 16 original cosponsors, including U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), John McCain (R-Arizona), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana).

Under current labor law, employers can force a union on their own workers by recognizing a union as the exclusive bargaining representative based on a “card check,” or they can insist upon a secret ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

SBPA would require secret ballot elections to give some level of protection to workers. Of course, full protection for all workers can only be achieved by allowing workers to freely choose on an individual basis whether or not to join or pay dues to a union. SBPA helps protect workers from the certification of unions through card check only, which some in Congress want to mandate through the Employee Free Choice Act. It also protects workers from card check certifications approved by their employer without their consent, which is permitted under current law.

U.S. Congressmen John Kline (R-Minnesota) and Tom Price (R-Georgia) as well as Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Buck McKeon (R-California) have introduced SBPA in the House with over 100 cosponsors including Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Since 1935, workers have had the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and working conditions by collecting signed authorizations from at least 30 percent of the workforce. These signatures are then used to petition the NLRB to supervise an election. These elections are required to be held within 60 days and the NLRB follows procedures that ensure a fair election, free of fraud, where employees may vote confidentially without peer pressure or coercion from unions or employers.

According to a January 2007 poll by McLaughlin & Associates, almost 9 in 10 voters (87 percent) agree that every worker should have the right to a federally supervised secret ballot election when deciding whether to organize a union. In a 2009 poll conducted by the Center for Union Facts found that 82 percent of non-unionized workers would not like their jobs to be unionized.

Numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have criticized union attempts to intimidate workers through card check policy and have upheld the fundamental rights of workers to engage in secret ballot votes.
  • “We would be closing our eyes to obvious difficulties, of course, if we did not recognize that there have been abuses, primarily arising out of misrepresentations by union organizers as to whether the effect of signing a card was to designate the union to represent the employee for collective bargaining purposes or merely to authorize it to seek an election to determine that issue.” (NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., Supreme Court of the United States, 1969)
  • “Freedom of choice is a matter at the very center of our national labor relations policy, and a secret election is the preferred method of gauging choice.” (Avecor v. NLRB, D.C. Circuit, 1991)