Protecting workers' rights for Labor Day

The Madison County Record Sep. 7, 2009, 8:36am

To the editor:

This weekend, Americans across the country will gather with family, friends and coworkers to celebrate Labor Day. Besides being recognized as the symbolic end of summer, this national holiday is the one day of the year dedicated to honoring working men and women and celebrating the freedoms our nation provides its citizens.

One of those freedoms is the fundamental American right to participate in a secret-ballot election. However, that freedom is under threat by legislation on Capitol Hill that would effectively eliminate a worker's right to a secret-ballot election when deciding whether to join a union, and allow the federal government to dictate the terms of the union contract without a vote by the employees.

Under the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, or card check legislation, union organizers need only collect signed cards from 50 percent of the workers – plus one additional person – to form a bargaining unit. The National Labor Relations Board would then certify the union as the representative of the bargaining unit without a secret-ballot election, as is required under current law.

Current law also requires that both the union and employer bargain in good faith after a union is certified. However, under the Employee Free Choice Act, if both parties have not reached an agreement after 120 days, the union can call for mandatory, binding arbitration. A federal government arbitrator would then decide the terms of the contract for the first two years, including wages, benefits and working conditions. The workers would have no vote to either accept or reject a contract.

In the end, workers could end up in a union they didn't have an opportunity to vote for, and be forced to abide by a contract on which they didn't vote. No secret-ballot election. No vote on a contract. Where exactly is the free choice? Freedom to choose in the workplace is the highest honor that we can pay not just to all the men and women in the construction workforce, but to every worker in the nation.

Rob Winchester
Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

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