Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Faith of My Fathers

I think I finally understand why eliminating the secret ballot for workers contemplating forming a union shop has been nagging and nagging at me.

Surviving in my family's oral history are stories of my immigrant forebears' participation in early struggles for unionization. I'm not talking Las Vegas casino workers signing pre-printed "We want a union" cards handed out by professional organizers with 401(k) plans and good dental benefits. I'm talking steelworkers and anthracite coal miners with 19-inch biceps bringing bare fists and clubs into contests with strike-breakers and job seekers attempting to cross picket lines to take the striking workers' jobs.

Life was hard for these people, and work was dangerous, when they could get it. Striking workers took to the streets and engaged in hand-to-hand combat to protect the survival of their children.

Back then, unions helped. Steelworkers still fell into open hearths glowing with molten ore. Coal miners still got swept into early graves by Black Lung. But most unionized workers also got to go to the same job every day instead of begging, hat in hand, for a new shot at the same job every morning at the company gate. Wages improved.

Those hardy people and their descendants weren't shy about fighting for their families or for their country either. Poison-gassed in a French trench, exploded into smithereens on a Belgian road, riddled with shrapnel in an Italian field, blown out of the sky over London (and on and on), my family members gave and gave and gave, but they never gave up.

They had faith in the USA. They were proud to sacrifice to help others have the right to vote and the other freedoms they enjoyed.

I can promise you this: These people never--I mean never ever--considered for one moment that they were sleeping in mud and fighting and dying so that trade unions, legislatures, Congresses, or even a president could take away their sacred right to a secret ballot.

Granted, labor unions aren't what they used to be, and neither are votes. Like many an institution that started out with a great idea, unions have become self-oiling cash machines of little use to anyone but the bureaucrats and fat cats that feed off them. Do union members really benefit as they once did? In some unions, maybe. I haven't seen it. Mostly, as far as I can tell, labor unions exist as mechanisms for collecting union dues, which are used for various purposes including greasing the skids for politicians who will do whatever it takes to keep those union dues rolling in. I can hear the wheels turning: Are those pesky secret ballots limiting the number of union shops because workers don't want to pay union dues for benefits they're already getting? Get rid of 'em! Coercion is so much more efficient.

And votes. Your vote may be sacred to you, purchased as it was with the blood of so many who would have loved to live, but it sure as hell isn't sacred to open-border enthusiasts, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now!), certain senate seat ballot officials, or, back to today's topic, labor unions. Belief in the power of the vote is being diluted, not by scandal, but by a total absence of outrage in high places. Valid votes seem so inconsequential to the political process today that you need a research staff to find anyone in power lifting a finger to protect them.

The Democrat Party malfeasance of depriving workers of the secret ballot has been underway in Congress for years, infuriatingly dubbed (in the current mode of doublespeak) the Employee Free Choice Act. In 2007, George W. Bush threatened to veto it if it passed, which it almost did. Unless it gets concealed by the dust cloud being kicked up during Obama's spending spree, you can expect to see it again sometime this year, maybe even this month. Barack Obama, who professes to believe that "unions and their organizers" can "lift up this country's middle class," and who has publicly stated that he agrees with the bill's outlines, will of course, get what he wants.

Okay, another expected defeat for traditionalists like myself, a defeat (unlike others pending) that is not even a sacrilege against the Constitution, which doesn't guarantee the right of a secret ballot. But I don't even apologize for fearing that this is just the middle of the beginning of the end of the secret ballot across the board. First workers fill out a convenient card, bypassing that pain-in-the-neck secret ballot, getting people used to the idea. Later, somewhere down the line, you and I point and click on a convenient screen (maybe even the TV screen following a really rousing speech), bypassing that pain-in-the-neck trip to the polling place. Goodbye, secret ballot, goodbye.

Grandpa and his pals would never have let it get this far.


  1. The Employee Free Choice Act is a travesty and a danger, but I'm not sure its passage is a given quite yet. Business interests hate it and they have powerful lobbies, plus the story broke over the MSM and the public generally don't seem to be fooled by the bill's title.

    Your idea of voting from home is very interesting to me. The term "progress" has often been used by socialist movements to justify various agendas and actions. More recently the term "technological progress" has been used to push socialist agendas-- witness Obama calling out the scandalous use of paper in the medical industry to promote a move toward socialized medicine. It is important for people to understand the actual trade-offs for certain conveniences (such as voting at home or paperless offices) and if these conveniences are actually a good thing in the first place.Rushing headlong into "progress" for its own sake can have dire consequences.

  2. Great piece Quite Rightly, and well said Yukio. The relevant questions aren't do we want progress or do we want change, but what kind change do we want? And towards what do we want to progress? Unfortunately, President Obama and the radical left have a very different goal that they are progressing towards than most Americans would support. Which is why, like Rush Limbaugh, I desperately hope they fail.