WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 15, 2010 -
The Wall Street Journal reports today on a curious request from the National Labor Relations Board, the panel that arbitrates private-sector labor disputes:
“The National Labor Relations Board is exploring electronic-voting methods for unionization elections, which employer advocates fear could be used to circumvent the current secret-ballot process and favor unions.”
It’s not clear precisely what is motivating the NLRB to make this request, nor what it plans to do with the information it receives. What is unmistakable is that undermining the federally supervised secret ballot election process could have devastating consequences for workers.
For years, union leaders have sought a voting method called “card check” to inflate their ranks. With card check, union organizers press workers to publicly sign a card in support of their particular union. The perils are obvious: intimidation, public pressure, and lack of individual privacy.
Although the card check ploy has run into bipartisan opposition in Congress, this panel of unelected bureaucrats has significant authority to resolve labor disputes and shape workplace practices. Many workers may be wondering whether this foray into electronic voting is simply a 21st century version of the same old scheme: call it e-card check.
Labor Board Explores Electronic Voting
By KRIS MAHER
The National Labor Relations Board is exploring electronic-voting methods for unionization elections, which employer advocates fear could be used to circumvent the current secret-ballot process and favor unions.
On Thursday, the NLRB put out a request for information to contractors who can provide "secure electronic voting systems" for remote and on-site elections. The board also asked for information about safeguards to ensure "that votes cast remotely were free from distractions or other interferences, including undue intimidation or coercion."
Some attorneys are interpreting the request for information as a step toward Internet or telephone balloting which they argue could favor unions. Today unionization votes overseen by the NLRB at private-sector employers are typically cast in person via secret ballots on company property.
"There's nothing to stop people from saying 'Let's do our Internet voting or telephone voting together to show our solidarity' " which could lead to peer pressure, said Chuck Cohen, senior counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and former Republican appointee to the NLRB during the Clinton administration.
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