At the end of the 19th century, unsuspecting workers were "shanghaied" a practice originated in that Chinese city to work on British ships, which desperately needed the labor. All manner of tricks were used to hoodwink the poor souls into service at sea. According to one legend, press gangs, or "crimps," would put a coin "the king's shilling" in a man's drink. If the mark drank the ale only to see the coin at the bottom of an empty glass, it was too late and he was a member of the Royal Navy.
The proposed Employee Free Choice Act, colloquially known as "card check," might be better named "The Democrats' Shilling Act." It would radically revise the National Labor Relations Act, primarily by diluting the practice of requiring workers to vote for unionization via an election with a secret ballot, and by changing the rules by which a government official can force labor rules on employers making the choice to unionize less free. Basically, under card check, labor can unionize a company's employees if 50 percent of workers sign a card saying they want to unionize. The cards can be signed in the presence of others, including union organizers.
Indeed, the press gangs prefer it that way.
There is a bloody spin war over whether card check abolishes the secret ballot or not. Pro-card-check forces insist that it doesn't. Unfortunately, these voices include many mainstream reporters who consistently use the language preferred by Big Labor. They parrot the labor line that if 30 percent of workers sign a card asking for an election, they can have one.
But this ignores the unions' crimp tactics. For starters, the cards are written in ways that make "predatory lending" mortgages seem like paragons of full disclosure.
The National Right to Work Web site shows an example of such a card. In big, bold letters on top, it says "Request for Employees Representation Election." But after you fill out the relevant info, there's the small print, authorizing the Teamsters to "represent me in all negotiations of wages, hours and working conditions."
In other words, in many cases, workers who think they're just voting for an election are in fact voting for unionization. The unions make it as difficult as possible to do the former without also doing the latter. Check a card, find the king's shilling.
Also, if the number of cards is over 30 percent but below 50 percent, there still isn't an election unless the organizers not the workers want it.
As Mickey Kaus, a one-man blogging crusader against card check, wrote, "No individual worker will know if his signed card will provide the 31 percent plurality or the 51 percent majority. Only the organizers know this. You could sign the card intending to provoke an election and discover that you actually prevented an election. There's no way for ordinary workers to reliably game the system in order to 'choose' a secret ballot."
Translation: They're not workers with a vote, they're marks.
"Since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?" Teamsters President James Hoffa asked recently. "Town meetings in New England are as democratic as they come, and they don't use the secret ballot. Elections in the Soviet Union were by secret ballot, but those weren't democratic."
It's a funny argument primarily because it's so stupid. But it's particularly funny coming from the son of Jimmy Hoffa, who acted more like a KGB election monitor than a member of New England's democracy-loving yeoman citizenry. Hoffa the Elder made his name beating up and much, much worse anyone who stood in the way of the Teamsters, including other unions. Today's unions are less Mobbed-up than those of yesteryear to be sure, but they're hardly above tactics that would be considered intimidating and coercive at a Connecticut school board meeting.
Besides, if card check is no threat to the secret ballot, why is Hoffa kneecapping the latter?
Organized labor is not dead in America, nor should it be. But it's simply not as important as it once was, because the government has an alphabet soup of agencies dedicated to protecting the rights of workers. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, OSHA and the Family and Medical Leave Act make the need for unions far less acute.
This is good news for workers, especially liberals, but it's bad news for unions because they need grievances to grow (and the Democrats need unions). In a recent Rasmussen poll, only 9 percent of nonunion workers who responded wanted to belong to a union. That's quite a referendum.
The response from labor and the Democrats? If they won't join, shanghai them.