By JOHN R. MERIMAR JR.
CLARKSBURG -- The news of late has been dominated by Iraq and the 2008 presidential contenders. Still flying "under the radar" is House Resolution 800, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently described as "the most important labor law reform legislation of this generation."
Although this bill is named "The Employee Free Choice Act," it would in fact do away with confidential elections among employees to determine whether they will be represented by unions. If this Bill becomes law, instead of holding confidential elections, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will determine whether the majority of employees want a union by counting signatures on cards.
On March 1, House Resolution 800 was passed by a vote of 241 to 185. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Hopefully, the Senate will do a better job of critically evaluating what is really going on here.
Unions have been losing membership for decades. They now represent just over 7 percent of employees in the private sector.
Employees are simply not buying the notion that they need unions to represent their interests, which makes perfect sense because the Government has passed so many laws and regulations protecting employees that it has taken over the role that unions once held.
The government has made unions obsolete, and ironically enough unions are now turning to the government to bail them out.
Unions don't want confidential elections because, just like voters in a general election, employees can vote based on their true feelings and opinions. Unions want to use signatures on cards because they keep on losing at the ballot box, and there is no way for them to manipulate the election process to gain an advantage.
On the other hand, there are all kinds of ways that unions can manipulate the card signing process.
For example, an organizer might get several supporters together and visit an employee at home to ask for his/her signature. That kind of peer pressure is hard to resist.
Elections are the best way to shield employees from outside pressures, whatever their source, so that they can make a free and honest choice.
Unfortunately, a free and honest choice is exactly what unions have come to fear and are working so hard to do away with.
One of the cornerstones of our democratic society is the confidential ballot we get to cast on Election Day.
When it comes to determining what people really want, there is no substitute. The confidential ballot is fundamental to our way of life.
We should not sit back quietly and let our elected representatives take the right to cast a confidential vote away from employees in union elections.
I urge everyone who reads this letter to contact his or her representatives and tell them to vote "no" on the Employee Free Choice Act.
Merinar is a member at Steptoe & Johnson and works in the firm's Clarksburg office. He concentrates his practice in the area of labor and employment law.