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A Click Away from Card Check

Big Labor tries to track union voting online.

11:00 PM, Nov 17, 2009 • By KATIE PACKER
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Not content with trying to stack election rules in their favor, or take away from workers the right to vote by secret ballot and vote on employment contracts, union bosses are now trying to track employees' votes electronically in an attempt to strong-arm workers into unions.

Airline labor unions are not only asking their friends in the Obama administration to change labor organizing rules to help them win elections, Big Labor is now demanding that technology be used in a way that would allow them to trace an employee's vote.

On July 22, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) asked the National Mediation Board (NMB)--the body that oversees airline and railroad union elections--to allow it to use a hyperlink in emails and on its web site that leads to the official NMB voting site where votes are cast. The hyperlink technology would allow the AFA to track which employees have accessed the voting web site. That information would make it easier for labor bosses to threaten or coerce individuals into voting.

For example, the union could send an email to eligible workers urging them to click on the hyperlink and vote in favor of unionization. They could then track who did and didn't use the hyperlink. Anyone who didn't click on the hyperlink could then be singled out and pressured into voting. The use of these hyperlinks would destroy an employee's right to privacy and a secret ballot.

The NMB rejected the use of hyperlinks to their voting Web site just 17 months ago. In fact, the NMB has twice ruled that the use of hyperlinks to their voting site is inappropriate and should not be allowed because it compromises the National Mediation Board's neutrality, and undermines the integrity and confidentiality of the voting process. To uphold the integrity of the voting process, the NMB even decided to remove a voting site hyperlink from its own central Web site in February 2008.

Unsurprisingly, the AFA has decided to ask again for hyperlinks now that former AFA President Linda Puchala has been appointed to the board. The AFA presumably believes that Puchala will look more favorably upon their request than the board member she replaced, as she has done for other requests to change long-standing rules to the benefit of Big Labor.

Internet privacy is in issue that concerns all of us. It is essential that privacy is maintained in union elections in order to spare employees from harassment, threats, and coercion. It is not right that union bosses are working to use their influence over the new administration to gain permission to use tracking technology as they urge workers to vote.

Whether it's throwing out rules that have been in place for nearly a century requiring a majority of a workgroup to vote in favor of a union, working to jam through the Employee 'Forced' Choice Act--which essentially serves as a government takeover of small business--or undermining democracy and the right to choose representation freely and fairly by allowing workers' votes on unionization to be tracked using hyperlinks, it is clear union bosses are working overtime to force unionization on Americans.

Katie Packer is executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute.