Guest Column by State Senator Terry Brown

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

‘Free Choice Act’ eliminates secret ballot in union elections

For too long now, we’ve stood idly by as Mississippi’s businesses and workers have fought to protect their rights against labor unions.  But the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), better known as “card check,” raises the ante on that fight, and casts a harsh light on the attempts by Big Labor to gain the upper hand on decent, hard-working Americans.  As a native-born Mississippian and a member of the state’s Labor and Economic Development Committees, I’ve dedicated myself to protecting the rights and freedoms of our state’s workforce.  Card check openly threatens those freedoms.

Employees have always been able to vote privately in union-organizing elections.  But under card check, that right would be taken away and replaced by an open-voting system that would force workers to express their personal views to their employers, fellow workers, and union organizers.  This exposure denies employees the right to a secret ballot and risks opening up the door to manipulation and coercion.

In the tradition of American ingenuity, employees are currently awarded raises and promotions based on the quality of their work.  EFCA would change that, instead allowing unions to make union seniority—rather than personal performance—the basis for promotions and incentives.  This shift in the pecking order of Mississippi businesses would put our hard-working employees last in line, which would inevitably stifle our continued efforts to grow the economy.

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With EFCA in place, Big Labor would feel empowered to take control of workers’ rights.  Our businesses would transform from free, independent workplaces into hotbeds of cronyism.  EFCA practically guarantees that every employee would be forced into unions, while giving union bosses the power to raise dues and turn a blind eye to the needs of Mississippi workers.  What’s more, Big Labor’s power could go unchallenged, leaving employees with no recourse.

Washington has long remained an outside force during union negotiations, stepping in only when it’s absolutely necessary.  EFCA is Washington’s bid for a literal seat at the table, inserting a government representative into union negotiations and silencing the voices of American workers.

Congress needs to know that we will no longer stand idly by.  We need to tell them that EFCA sets a dangerous precedent and poses a direct threat to the freedoms of American workers.  We cannot allow Big Labor to silence workers’ voices on the issues of fair pay and improved working conditions, and we cannot allow union bosses to bring to Mississippi the divisive, deadlocked Washington politics that have plagued us for too long.

What Mississippi needs are big ideas, not backroom deals.  We need more support for hard-working employees, not easy breaks for union pals.  We need more opportunities for young go-getters, not extra cushioning for cronies.

Earlier this year, I voted to support local businesses that hire American workers because I believe it’s our job to protect the rights and freedoms of the Mississippi workforce.  Now it’s time for Congress to protect American workers’ rights and stop EFCA in its tracks.