Employee Free Choice Act, Part II

The last vote in our informal poll over in our left margin about the Employee Free Choice Act was several days ago. Therefore, I’m going to assume that everyone who has both

  • been paying attention to this, and
  • wants to participate (vote)

in our little poll has already done so. I’ve closed the poll to further voting, and thanks to whoever did vote. The reason I did this was because I wanted to see (informally) what effect a concerted propaganda campaign can have on intelligent people’s understanding of the news, or of particular issues. I’m assuming that if such a campaign can affect a particular issue, it could probably affect any other issue with not too much more or less difficulty.

Without further ado, the results of our poll can be found here. The two leading vote-getters were:

  • EFCA will take away workers’ right to a secret ballot election to form unions, and
  • EFCA will give workers the right to sign cards to form a union.

I’m going to guess that, for some people, these may have seemed like identical choices: giving workers the right to sign cards, while simultaneously taking away their right to vote for a union by secret ballot. I’ve heard more than one person, anecdotally, suggest that the EFCA does both. However, these two things are not synonymous, nor does EFCA do both of them. That’s why I made them two separate choices. What does EFCA do? In short, which was the right answer? Come with me after the jump:

If you follow the link above (or the one in the original post), you will get to the Library of Congress’ complete text of the bill. It’s not long. If you go to Section 2, entitled “Streamlining Union Certification,” you will find the following language:

…whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations [cards] designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative

Under current law, the secret-ballot election is the only method employees can use to form a union. If EFCA passes, it will allow for employees to sign cards to form one, OR to continue to use the already-existing method of secret-ballot election. The correct answer to our poll was “It will give workers the right to sign cards to vote for a union.”

Five people (I was one of them) chose this option. But an equally large number – also 5 – chose the option which stated that EFCA would take away employees’ right to a secret-ballot election. A few others chose some of the other options, which were also incorrect. But what I want to know is: why would as many people get this wrong in this specific way as got it right? Well, if you were one of the people who said that EFCA would take away workers’ right to a secret-ballot, don’t feel too bad. There’s a very good reason you may have thought so. Specifically, there is a very well-organized, concerted effort still underway to convince everyone that EFCA will do exactly that: take away workers’ right to a secret ballot.

Who is part of this effort? Well, as you might guess, most large businesses. Smaller businesses aren’t as often subject to unionization, and the savings realized through having an “at-will” workforce which knows deep-down, every moment, that their job could be taken away, is not nearly as great for smaller, “mom and pop” businesses. It’s not a surprise to discover that large conglomerates are against this bill. They’ve thrown their considerable (financial) weight behind splashy ads like this one, featuring well-known actors like Vince Curatola from The Sopranos, which ran extensively throughout the country, falsely but compellingly warning that EFCA would remove the secret ballot for workers:

Such ads were lies, of course, but when was the last time THAT mattered to unscrupulous people who want something accomplished? And those ads definitely had their effect, especially with the associations most Americans have with the bare-knuckle world of mobsters, as exemplified by the Sopranos’ character portrayed by Curatola.

Nevertheless, not everyone saw those ads, and even fewer of us talk to the heads of major corporations on a daily basis. So how did so many intelligent people come to the mistaken conclusion that EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot for workers? For so many of us to believe something which a simple read-through of the legislation itself would disprove, the misinformation has to be coming from somewhere else, somewhere that many or most Americans do go to find things out: the media.

One of the prime (though by no means the only) culprits: the Wall Street Journal. Here’s the Journal, in October of last year:

…Big Labor wants to trash the secret-ballot elections that have been in place since the 1930s. The “Employee Free Choice Act” would convert workplaces into union shops merely by gathering signatures from a majority of employees, which means organizers could strongarm those who opposed such a petition.

Here’s the Journal again, this time in early January of this year:

In 2007, Mr. Pryor voted to move card check, Big Labor’s No. 1 priority. And why not? Mr. Pryor knew the GOP would block the bill, which gets rid of secret ballots in union elections.

And again, from earlier this month:

In a largely party-line vote last week, Democrats in the House passed the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that rewrites the rules for union organizing by eliminating secret-ballot elections.

And finally, from the 11th of this month:

Big Labor’s drive to eliminate secret ballots for union elections has united American business in opposition, so labor chiefs are putting on the brass knuckles…

Those are just the ones that are still available (i.e.: not too old to be retrieved) from the Journal’s archives. But they have been pushing the idea of EFCA-as-secret-ballot-killer for more than a year now. If you read the Journal regularly, it’s no wonder you’d think that’s what EFCA does, despite such an idea being completely false. Oddly, just in the time since I put this poll up originally (on March 20th, to be exact) the Journal inexplicably reversed their previous months-long campaign of falsehood, saying that “The bill doesn’t remove the secret-ballot option from the National Labor Relations Act….” The Journal hasn’t had a complete about-face, of course, they still are solidly against EFCA, but now they are merely claiming that, while not actually eliminating secret ballot elections, EFCA would “makes them a dead letter in practice.” Still not true…but at least now they’re not actually repeatedly printing verifiable falsehoods.

The Journal were far from alone, though, in their conscious and deliberate campaign to oppose EFCA by outright falsehood: the reliable folks at FOX News aggressively pushed the false notion, as well, as exemplified by this quote from Chris Wallace:

Big Labor’s top priority is what’s called union card check, and that would be eliminating the right to a secret ballot in determining whether or not you’re gonna organize, unionize, as a working place.

Megyn Kelly, on FOX’s “America’s Newsroom” also pushed the falsehood on March 10th, saying:

We’re also following a developing story on Capitol Hill this morning: the Democrats and the country’s biggest unions today kicking off an effort to kill a worker’s right to a private ballot.

And of course no smear of late would be complete without the participation of Newt Gingrich, who appears to be making a Nixonian attempt at rehabilitation of his political image (perhaps in preparation for a Presidential run in 2012 or 2016?). On FOX (again), Gingrich commented:

He’s going to be for the labor unions taking away your right to a secret-ballot vote before being forced to join a union.

You get the idea. The bottom line is, I don’t find it at all strange that as many people came up with not just any wrong answer to the poll question I asked about EFCA, but the SPECIFIC wrong answer (the one most divisive and hurtful to unions and their supporters) which is being aggressively advanced, despite its falsity, by the Chamber of Commerce and the management-allies in much of the conservative media like FOX News and the Wall Street Journal. People open the paper, they turn on the TV news, they expect to be told what’s actually going on. And from there, everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion.

But everyone is NOT – and never has been – entitled to their own set of FACTS. However, in today’s conservative media culture, that appears to be exactly one of the primary principles under which they’re operating. They are directly, knowingly lying to the public, betting that most people won’t have the time, interest or energy to cross-check multiple sources to determine whether they’re being lied to by the fourth estate, which is supposed to act as an unofficial check on the government, to give people access to the facts, so they can – in FOX’s own words “decide.” But FOX’s slogan is perhaps more telling than they intend. It says: “WE report, YOU decide.” For that to work, FOX has to hold up their end of the bargain. And neither they nor the Wall Street Journal, nor many others in the conservative press, are doing so. It is shameful.

And you are on your own, people. The conservative media is lying to you, on purpose. They have been for a while. A full two years after 9/11, 70% of the American public thought that Saddam Hussein had been personally involved in the WTC attacks. 70%!!