Does a ballot cast in private or a card signed in public better reveal a worker’s preference about whether to join a union? My personal preference is the private ballot, which I think is how most of you would answer that question.

Organized labor thinks otherwise, so it has been pushing the Employee Free Choice Act through Congress as its highest legislative priority.

Recently, unions have switched their focus on organizing from private ballots to publicly signed cards. The term “card check” is derived from this latter campaign and is designed to make it easier for organizing workplaces and expand union activity and enrollments.

As you can imagine, this is being met with great resistance from companies that are, and have typically been, non-union. The expectation of unions is for the government to remove the worker’s rights to vote and certify unions with only a card-check campaign.

This would only require a majority of the employees to certify the union.

Individual laborers banding together to procure rights as a collective, as we were all told at the birth of the labor movement in the late nineteenth century, secured “Worker Freedom.” Over time, the intertwining of social and political worlds tells a different story. Interestingly, the drive toward “worker freedom” seems come at the expense of individual liberty.

We are all accountable for our own individual actions. We all have inherent individual rights and have the right to vote for our leaders. This is carried over to our workplace – or at least it used to be. The solidarity claim by unions was always predicated on the secret ballot vote from workers’ consciences.

If the unions claim to secure workers rights, why have the union enrollments declined over the past 30 years? Thirty-one states have seen their union membership decline over the past few years. Today only about 12 percent of workers are in unions, down from around 35 percent in the 1950s. In the dreaded private sector, only about 7 percent of workers are union.

This has only left one part of the workforce to grow union enrollment, the public sector, which operates according to rules that does not include competition, efficiency, or scarcity, to which the private sector must adhere. That is government! The private sector is subject to competition and market forces to stay in business, where government will exist regardless and has no real bottom line to worry about.

The emergence public sector unions has had, and will continue to have, consequences on scope, cost, and size of government. Unlike private businesses with limited resources to cover costs, government can raise taxes.

Is it easier to pay for an inefficient bureaucracy or fix the inefficiencies? Where we have crossed political lines is with support by one political party, Democrats in Maine, who have made concessions skewed to protect unions. Public sector unions make it easier to pay for the inefficiencies rather than fix them and are protected by politicians beholden to their support.

Look at what has been happening right here in the state of Maine over the past several years. I sponsored a bill, LD 1604, in the 123rd Legislature to protect workers from the “fair share” provision, which now demands all state employees – even those who decline to join the union – pay union dues. Where is the choice of the workers themselves?

The Labor Committee and the Democrats in the Legislature voted anyway to not give state employees a choice to pay or not. They passed legislation to automatically take the money out of the state employees’ pay! Think about that as you collect your paycheck next time. What if your employer tells you that you will pay them a fee to work for them without any choice?

The Employee Free Choice Act, regardless of noble intents, will create abuses.

Let’s pretend this legislation passes and someone approaches you at work to join a union. Currently, you would vote secret ballot, without fear of reprisal. With card-check legislation, the secret ballot is gone. Most people will allow themselves to be bullied and intimidated just to keep the peace in their workplace.

I have met many state employees over my years in the Legislature and can tell you the good ones far out number the bad. We had many people put their jobs on the line by supporting my legislation, in fear of reprisal.

That’s because unions are powerful. Did your legislator benefit from and vote for a union bill? You can almost be assured they benefited in one way or another for their votes either by financial support or “volunteer” support by placing signs and handing out printed material.

In order for our state and country to prosper and progress, our individual civil liberties must be preserved by defeating this legislation. Unions do have thier place.

But not every place!

Scott Lansley is chair of the Androscoggin County Republican Committee, a former legislator and current selectman in Sabattus. E-mail: [email protected]

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