Saturday, January 10, 2009

Isakson Pushes Labor Nominee to Oppose Eliminating Workers’ Rights to Secret Ballot in Choosing Whether to Unionize

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today questioned why President-elect Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor supports legislation to strip workers of their right to a secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize, but previously insisted on a secret ballot for workers during negotiations with management on flex time.

The nominee, U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis of California, voted for legislation to strip workers of the secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize in 2007, but pushed legislation in the California Legislature in the late 1990s in which she insisted that workers have the secret ballot when negotiating with management on flex time and overtime pay.

“You insisted that there be a vote by all employees and that it be by secret ballot. Why would we want to change the law of the United States now with regard to how unions are organized and eliminate the secret ballot?” Isakson said to Solis during her hearing this morning in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Solis responded to Isakson this morning that she was not prepared to make a statement about her position on the secret ballot at this time.

Isakson strongly opposes the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, also known as Card Check, which would eliminate the rights of workers to participate in a secret-ballot election in order to certify the creation of a union. The legislation would force employees to make a public declaration of their preference by allowing union organizers to bypass elections if a majority of employees sign cards authorizing a union.

The legislation passed the U.S. House in 2007 and is expected to be brought forth by Democratic leaders for a vote in the Senate this year.
Isakson believes the current system, which allows employees to use a secret ballot in choosing whether they want a union to become their exclusive representative in the workplace, has worked well because it neither advocates nor discourages unionization.
Isakson blamed declining union membership as the motive behind the legislation, which did not receive committee consideration. Union membership among private sector employees is at its lowest level in decades.

Isakson also used the nomination hearing for Solis to stress the importance of writing regulations that both protect workers and allow businesses to operate efficiently.

“In my four years on this committee as the Republican leader on the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, I have worked with Senators Murray, Kennedy, Enzi and others to try and strike this delicate balance,” Isakson said. “We have a strong record of working together on critical issues to American workers such as mine safety reform, banning asbestos, and pension protection.”
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