Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Peer pressure. If you’re like me, this term evokes images of high school and the desire to conform, rebel or just be accepted. Many of us now relate peer pressure to our teenage sons and daughters, an abstract concept with which students are left to grapple and overcome. The reality is that the pressure to conform never ends and the consequences of resistance only increase.

Repealing Employees' Rights

As citizens of a democratic nation, Americans have the right to elect their public officials in secrecy and without coercion. While no one would dream of exposing American voters to public ridicule or intimidation at the voting booth, this is exactly what Democratic leaders are proposing to force upon American workers.

The House of Representatives last week considered the grotesquely misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act.” Contrary to the title’s implications, this measure seeks to repeal employees’ rights to hold secret-ballot elections when deciding whether to form a union and leaves them exposed to -- you guessed it -- peer pressure.

The so-called “card check” provision of the bill would authorize union representation by the signing of a form, thus making null secret-ballot elections.

Evidence suggests that under card check agreements, employees are likely to be coerced or misled, often being falsely told the forms are non-binding “statements of interest,” requests for an election, or even benefit forms or administrative paperwork.

Threatened and Attacked

Unlike the ridicule a high school student resisting peer pressure may experience, workers resisting union efforts are often intimidated, threatened, and even attacked.

Testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor in May 2004 demonstrated safety concerns during union organizing campaigns. Specifically, Ms. Shelly Runyan, vice president at Titus Electrical Contracting, Inc., stated, “We’ve had a death threat, vandalism to employee and company property during pickets, anonymous threatening phone calls to our employees’ homes at 1:00 a.m. and intentional damage and sabotage to our work sites.”

Incidents like these must not go unpunished. In 1934, Congress passed the Anti-Racketeering Act, making it a crime to obstruct interstate commerce through violence and intimidation. An amendment included in the bill, however, provided a loophole, effectively exempting labor unions from prosecution. The statute permits labor organizations to use any means necessary to promote their goals as long as those goals can be deemed “legitimate.”

I sought to close this loophole by introducing the Freedom from Union Violence amendment to the “Employee Free Choice Act” during the Committee on Education and Labor’s markup session.

Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated 18 to 26 along party lines.

Misguided Legislation

So, the “Employee Free Choice Act” -- more accurately called the “Employee Coercion Act” -- came to the floor of the House without secret-ballot protections or worker protections.

Republicans will fight to uphold workers’ rights by offering an alternative to this misguided legislation. This alternative, championed by the late Congressman Charlie Norwood (R.-Ga.), guarantees workers the right to a secret-ballot election and prohibits unions from coercively subjecting employees to a card check campaign.

As the American people learn the truth about this proposal, I only hope Democrats are susceptible to the friendly peer pressure of their voting constituencies.

Mr. Wilson, a Republican, represents the 2nd District of South Carolina.

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