Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Denny Rehberg is in favor of the secret ballot -- what next?

It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones...

-- Calvin Coolidge

Montana Headlines thinks that it is a good time to take a break from the sometimes tedious party-line votes going on up in Helena these days, and from the amusing spectacle of watching sulking Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee vote against amendments to raise funding in the spending bills before them -- just because they are still miffed at the fact that they are having to vote on bills written by Republicans rather than by the executive branch.

Given some of the amendments that Democrats are voting against, it would appear that if Republicans were to introduce a resolution to save the baby seals, Democrats would vote to club the little sods to death.

This is a little old, but we will turn to the issue of secret ballots vs. card checks for labor union organization.

The ability to form labor unions is necessary to the functioning of a free economy. This might seem to be a shocking statement for a supposedly conservative website to say, we realize. The calculation is simple, though: gross inequities between rival interests of any kind lead to unrest. Governments dislike unrest, ergo gross inequities eventually end up leading to the government regulating entities that can't police themselves.

Note: it is the ability to form labor unions that is necessary. Labor unions themselves are not.

Denny Rehberg has been taken to task by at least some Montana Democrats for voting against a bill that would exchange secret ballot decisions by workers to unionize their workplace for a "card check." He "votes to protect intimidation of workers," in the serene and measured words of a headline at Left in the West.

What secret ballots are for is the same thing that every secret ballot is for: allowing a voter to keep his vote private. Secret ballots for union organizing allows employees not to reveal their vote or opinion to their employers, co-workers, and union officials -- unless they choose voluntarily to do so. A card check, on the other hand, would make that vote public knowledge.

Interestingly, the bill's primary sponsor, George Miller of California, supports secret ballots regarding union affairs -- but only when it involves union organization in Mexico, since in Mexico (unlike America, apparently) "the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose."

Miller's bill also fails to eliminate the secret ballot for workers to deunionize -- and that is one of the most incomprehensible parts of all.

Are we to understand that union organizers feel that employers would be inclined to intimidate employees to keep them from unionizing, but that they wouldn't be inclined to intimidate them into dissolving a union? If secret ballots are a tool of employer intimidation, one would think that they would be bad all the time -- certainly here, and, one would think, in Mexico as well.

Perhaps Miller and the unions that helped him write the bill know that a card check system will give such an intimidating upper-hand to union officials that they know won't need to worry about any uppity workers daring to try to deunionize.

The point to the bill is obvious. Its supporters want to eliminate a system whereby an individual can keep his opinion to himself and thus is unable to be intimidated either by employers or union officials. Its supporters want, rather, to institute a system that removes that privacy of opinion, and forces the worker to make his vote known to others.

The very submission of this bill is probably one of the biggest votes of confidence that labor could give to American employers. This bill is proof positive that unions are not in the least worried about workers being intimidated by employers, since truly ruthless employers would have no trouble getting their hands on the list of union supporters so they could do some actual intimidation (as opposed to the alleged "intimidation" that card checks are supposed to prevent.)

Rep. Rehberg was right to vote against this bill, and his detractors are disingenuous in their class warfare approach to demonizing him. All American workers have the right to organize unions if they feel that they are in their best interest. Nothing in the secret ballot process prevents them from doing so -- and given the history of union organizers muscling workers around in the past (and of employers doing the same in the even more distant past), letting workers keep their opinions and votes to themselves is very wise.

The quotation from President Coolidge that started this post was, interestingly, advice that he gave to his father, who had just been elected to the Vermont legislature.

His younger age didn't keep him from giving that sound advice to his father, nor should it keep this generation of young conservatives (who would have to live with its long-term effects) from giving advice to our own elders -- namely, our Republican U.S. Senators: it is their duty to filibuster this bill.

The legitimate purpose of a filibuster is to prevent a piece of bad legislation from seeing the light of day, and this is about as bad as they come.


Hallie said...

Ah, the "serene and measured" young Matt.

Is his constant tone of outrage real or faux?

Maybe it's just a bad habit he has fallen into--a limitation in his expressive style.

Montana Headlines said...

Youthful outrage is usually genuine, and that's hardly a bad thing.

Keep in mind that Matt also was the one who, during the Corey Stapleton discussions, had some thoughtful reflections on whether he was talking about his political opponents with respect. I respected him for that, and others picked up on it as a call for better manners in the leftie blogosphere.

It takes effort to speak and write with respect, and we often fail -- look at my Max Baucus post that the next day I realized on my own I needed to apologize for.

A lot of this is just what you say: habit. As Newt Gingrich said in the quotation in that post of mine, things get said from a distance that would never be said face-to-face.

Maybe Matt would tell Rehberg to his face that he was voting in favor of intimidating workers -- but in a general public forum I doubt that such a characterization of Rehberg would be considered by listeners to be fair or appropriate.

Gingrich's main point is that if we are only addressing and talking to our fellow partisans, we will get increasingly vicious. Which is why from the beginning, I have linked to about as many left-wing blogs as rightward ones.