Because Secret Ballots Are *SO* 20th Century ...

Not that Canadian politics isn't enough fun, but an article from south of the border caught my attention.

The gist of it is that the Democrats, who are now running Capital Hill, plan on changing the existing rules governing how a workplace gets unionized. Instead of requiring a secret yes-or-no ballot, the Dems and their union-head allies want to impose an automatic "card certification" process, which means that once a simple majority of eligibile workers sign union cards, the union is automatically "certified", or officialy recognized, without having a follow-up election.

The problem is, an individual worker could be pressured into signing a card - or for that matter, could be pressured into not signing. A secret ballot lets that individual make up his or her own mind, and vote accordingly, without anyone being able to prove how he or she voted.

If the worker signed the card of his/her own free will, then great: he or she can vote accordingly. But if for any reason they want to express themselves differently without everone in their shop knowing about it, a secret ballot lets that happen.

Unions, it is said, exist in part because the power of the individual worker is nowhere near as strong as the power enjoyed by his or her employer. But if that logic is accepted, then it follows that there is also a "power imbalance" between that individual worker, and a union on an organizing drive. One way to protect those individual workers from that "imbalance" is to allow them to make a yes-or-no choice without having to inform their fellow workers, the union organizers, or their employers & managers. And that's done by a secret ballot.

The Liberal government in Ontario has gotten up to similar shenanigans, bringing back Bob Rae-era "card certification", with a 55% threshold, in the construction industry. The McGuinty Libs haven't gone the whole hog and introduced "card certification" throughout Ontario - so far. But they have brought in some other pro-union "reforms". The CFIB has mounted a PR campaign setting out these changes, which you can read about here (note: Adobe document).

Naturally, the CFIB isn't exactly an unbiased observer in all of this by a long shot (but then, neither are most bloggers ...), but they do set out some of the more troubling changes introduced by the Libs.

But of all the "reforms", it's the card certification one that bothers me the most. Protecting an individual by giving her or him a secret ballot is seen as a pretty important principle to me - but it looks as if it's a principle that some unions, and their allies north & south of the border, would rather see the back of.

More later.



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