Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Unions vs. Free Elections

Former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern has an editorial in this weekend's Wall Street Journal in which he break with current Democratic party orthodoxy by opposing the Orwellianly named "Employee Free Choice Act":
The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as "card-check." There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.

Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.

There's no question that unions have done much good for this country. Their tenacious efforts have benefited millions of workers and helped build a strong middle class. They gave workers a new voice and pushed for laws that protect individuals from unfair treatment. They have been a friend to the Democratic Party, and so I oppose this legislation respectfully and with care.

To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.
Reading McGovern's piece, it struck me that there are really two ways in which an election helps prevent the undue intimidation of those voting.

The secrecy of your ballot is one element, but so is the fact that the election is held on a single day, and is then over. With the secret ballot, the voter is free from the fear of being subject to the vengeance of either a sore loser or a winning faction eager to weed out the disloyal.

But the fact that there is a single election day where one is only asked for one's decision once is also a key element for keeping elections fair and free. Imagine if, in the presidential election, the supports of one candidate could follow you around for weeks or months asking you to sign the list of votes for their candidate of choice. You might refuse dozens of times, yet if one time you gave in through fear, frustration, or simply desire to be left alone, that would be the vote that counted, not the dozens of refusals.

Just as our constitution assured that we will not be tried again and again for the same crime until a jury can finally be badgered into convicting us, the fact that an election takes place at a specific instant in time grants us freedom from undue influence. One can arguably intimidate 50% of the voters, but it's hard to intimidate them all at the same time.

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