I don’t get it

Here’s a pro-Employee Free Choice Act argument I hear a lot (via Matthew Yglesias):

Without the secret ballot, union organizers would allegedly be free to coerce their fellow employees.

In fact, this critique featured prominently in a recent (and absurd) employer-sponsored ad campaign featuring a Sopranos actor posing as a mob boss pressuring employees. Fortunately for us all, the New Jersey crime families have yet to make significant inroads into our nation’s service industries. Sleep tight America.

In all seriousness, Gagnon’s bleak portrait is as imaginary as the Sopranos commercial. The EFCA will not lead to coercion — it will end it.

The most critical point is that current elections are anything but free and fair. They are one-sided affairs dominated by the employer.

Indeed, to call them “elections” is a bit generous given the various forms of coercion that employers can and do apply to influence the vote.

Note that the author doesn’t even bother to rebut the charge that pressuring workers into agreeing to union representation invites coercion. In other words, the article’s pro-EFCA argument boils down to “businesses are intimidating workers already; ergo union organizers should have the same privilege.” While I’m sure this sounds very persuasive to, say, the SEIU, I’m less confident that the legislation’s card check provisions do anything to remedy status quo employee harassment. To be fair, the EFCA also beefs up the National Labor Relations Board’s enforcement mechanisms – a measure that actually has some relevance to the harms its proponents claim to be addressing – but the card check section is primarily concerned with making union organizing a lot more unpleasant and a lot less difficult. So workplace intimidation has become a pretext for a legislative power-grab premised on the notion that a) unions are a critical element of the progressive movement’s infrastructure and b) union representation is always beneficial for workers. While a) is undoubtedly true, the cynical “ends justify the means” logic of b) is pretty staggering.

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