Wicker Joins Introduction of the Secret Ballot Protection Act

Legislation Would Guarantee Workers’ Right to Secret Ballot Vote

February 27, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today announced he has joined in introducing the Secret Ballot Protection Act (SBPA), legislation that would guarantee the right of American workers to have a secret ballot election on whether to unionize.  

“American workers should continue to enjoy the right to join a union, but it must be done in a manner the respects our democratic process,” said Senator Wicker.  “This legislation provides workers the right to a secret ballot – without intimidation and coercion from either union officials or company management.”

Under current labor law, employers can force a union on their own workers by recognizing a union as the exclusive bargaining representative based on a “card check,” or they can insist upon a secret ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Under the card-check system, secret ballots are tossed aside and workers are forced to sign cards publicly in support of a union.  This process takes away workers’ right to express their opinion anonymously via secret ballot and puts them at greater risk of coercion and intimidation from those wishing to influence votes.

SBPA would require secret ballot elections to give some level of protection to workers. Of course, full protection for all workers can be achieved only by allowing workers to choose freely on an individual basis whether or not to join or pay dues to a union. SBPA helps protect workers from the certification of unions through card check only, which some in Congress want to mandate through the Employee Free Choice Act. It also protects workers from card check certifications approved by their employer without their consent, which is permitted under current law.

Since 1935, workers have had the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and working conditions by collecting signed authorizations from at least 30 percent of the workforce. These signatures are then used to petition the NLRB to supervise an election. These elections are required to be held within 60 days and the NLRB follows procedures that ensure a fair election, free of fraud, where employees may vote confidentially without peer pressure or coercion from unions or employers.

According to a January 2007 poll by McLaughlin & Associates, almost 9 in 10 voters (87 percent) agree that every worker should have the right to a federally supervised secret ballot election when deciding whether to organize a union. A 2009 poll conducted by the Center for Union Facts found that 82 percent of non-unionized workers would not like their jobs to be unionized.

Numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have criticized union attempts to intimidate workers through card check policy and have upheld the fundamental rights of workers to engage in secret ballot votes.

  • “We would be closing our eyes to obvious difficulties, of course, if we did not recognize that there have been abuses, primarily arising out of misrepresentations by union organizers as to whether the effect of signing a card was to designate the union to represent the employee for collective bargaining purposes or merely to authorize it to seek an election to determine that issue.” (NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., Supreme Court of the United States, 1969)
  • “Freedom of choice is a matter at the very center of our national labor relations policy, and a secret election is the preferred method of gauging choice.” (Avecor v. NLRB, D.C. Circuit, 1991)

The lead sponsors of the SBPA are U.S. Senators Jim DeMint R-S.C., Chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  In addition to Senator Wicker, there are 15 other original cosponsors, including: Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., James Inhofe, R-Okla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., and David Vitter, R-La.

The SBPA introduced in the Senate is the companion to House legislation introduced by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.