Veto should maintain secret union votes
Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill that would prevent employers from insisting on a secret election of employees on union certification.
Gov. Linda Lingle has rightly vetoed a bill approved by the Legislature that would have had the effect of eliminating secret elections in union organizing in some workplaces. Part of a national movement, the measure would subject employees -- unprotected by the secret ballot -- to undue pressure from both management and labor.
In an op-ed piece last Sunday, Rep. Neil Abercrombie argued that it would not eliminate the secret ballot but would allow employees instead of employers to decide on holding an election. It would allow the signing of union cards by more than half the employees in a workplace to result automatically in union certification.
Employers now are allowed to insist on a secret election on the issue. An employee's open support of a secret election following a majority "card check" would be regarded correctly as anti-union, forestalling certification.
Abercrombie points out that management is known to pressure employees to reject union organization. That can be effective in discouraging them from signing union cards, but anonymity protected by secret ballots in union elections is the best way to thwart pressure from both management and labor.
"Secret ballots are the cornerstone of any truly democratic system," Lingle asserted in her veto message. "There is no compelling justification for replacing an unbiased, democratic process with one that has the potential to erode a worker's existing rights and protections under law."
The state bill would be limited to agricultural workplaces and small businesses that are not subject to the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which grants most employers the right to require secret votes. Abercrombie is co-sponsor of a more sweeping bill in Congress to amend that law by taking away that employer's right, allowing union certification by union card signatures alone.
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