Wszolek: This is America: Home of the secret ballot

Wszolek: This is America: Home of the secret ballot

October 16th, 2013 Fred Wszolek in Opinion Columns

Workers at the Volkswagen plant here will decide whether to form a union.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Misrepresentations, exaggerations and even outright lies have been invoked by the United Auto Workers (UAW) in its recent campaign to win union recognition at a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga. Reports have indicated that the UAW is seeking union representation at the Chattanooga facility by coercing workers into signing union cards.

Eight union workers recently filed federal charges against the UAW on the grounds that labor organizers tricked them into signing union cards. The complaint alleges that the UAW told the employees that by signing the cards they were expressing their support for a secret ballot vote, when in reality, they were signing cards in support of union representation.

When these workers tried to object, they were met with punitive obstacles. In fact, the complaint alleges that labor officials told workers that they had to physically appear at a union office in order to rescind their signatures. Further, the veracity of the campaign launched by labor bosses is highly dubious, as it utilized outdated cards to establish employee sentiment. A reasonable observer would conclude that the legitimacy of the campaign is highly suspect and the tactics employed by union bosses are not in-line with American democratic values.

Card check is a flawed approach, as it allows Big Labor to coerce and threaten employees into joining the union. When labor organizers follow workers after work, call them incessantly or even show up at an employee's home and pressure him or her to form a collective bargaining unit, it is difficult to object. The UAW has used such tactics in the past to circumvent fair elections, which in turn does irrevocable damage to workplace democracy, which is the hallmark of American labor law. And the real losers in this ordeal are workers such as those at Volkswagen, who are being coerced into supporting a union they do not want.

Based on the recent allegations made by Volkswagen's eight workers, the UAW has done everything but treat employees respectfully and fairly. Volkswagen deserves praise for electing to build automobiles in the United States, as the company's decision directly benefits the U.S. economy by creating high paying jobs. However, given the circumstances, Volkswagen must step in and take action, rather than acquiesce to the UAW's demands.

The eight employees have requested that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order the UAW to cease its campaign for union recognition based upon a card check approach. But given that a majority of NRLB board members are union partisans, it is unlikely the government agency will act as a neutral arbitrator. Fortunately, the National Labor Relations Act empowers Volkswagen with the right to reject the UAW's demands for union recognition except on the basis of a secret ballot election.

The UAW is fiercely opposed to a secret ballot vote, but it would restore legitimacy to its unionization effort by giving a result that accurately reflects employee choice on the issue. And while we understand that Europe often takes a different approach than the United States, Volkswagen must understand the importance to the American worker of their right to a secret ballot. Thus, it is imperative that Volkswagen voice support for a secret ballot election, as the UAW's current card check approach infringes on the rights of Volkswagen employees and steps on the American tradition of a fair and evenhanded process.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).