Media Support 'Freedom of Choice' that Would Kill Secret Ballot

     “Freedom of Choice” was a song by the punk band Devo released in 1980. Today’s use of the term applied to union voting goes back to those same ’80s roots – back to 1984.

     George Orwell’s “1984.”

     Just like Orwell, liberal Democrats and the media who love them are using the term to mean its complete opposite. Advocates of America’s fortunately waning union movement have decided unions are so unloved that they need to force people to join.

     Officially, the bill passed the House as the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007. It mandates something entirely opposite. The bill would “remove the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections and to require employers to recognize unions once a majority of workers sign cards saying they want to organize,” according to the March 2 Washington Post.

     You read that correctly. The bill would eliminate the right to a secret ballot. It would be big news if employers tried something so un-American. But since it’s unions playing retro with freedom, the major networks haven’t covered the topic at all in the last six months.

     The media aren’t just looking the other way. In many cases they officially support the bill – through their own union, the Newspaper Guild-CWA, which partnered with the Communications Workers of America. Both are part of the AFL-CIO. According to the December 8 Washington Post, the top two unions (including the AFL-CIO) threw $75 million “on grass-roots mobilization” to help Democrats win the last election.

     Not all journalists belong to a union. The Guild claims just “34,000 members in the United States, Canada and in Puerto Rico” of all sorts of media jobs, from reporters and editors to drivers and ad sales staff. But CWA represents even more – “630,000 members across North America with more than 400,000 working in communications and related fields.”

     You don’t need to look for the union label. It comes stamped on your news every single day. Is it any wonder you probably haven’t heard of the efforts to eliminate one of the very pillars of democracy – the secret ballot?

     That brings us to the ludicrous misnomer “freedom of choice” for a bill that now awaits Senate action and a possible veto should it pass. Supporters like former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich actually claim the bill would give prospective members choice to join a union.

     They lie.

     The current system allows workers that choice – free of manipulation by bullying bosses or union recruiters who have watched the movie “Hoffa” one too many times. Under the new system, the secret ballot goes away. Votes of workers will be seen by all, leaving workers vulnerable to pressure and threats from their union buddies.

     The Newspaper Guild-CWA openly supports this Free Choice act. Guild President Linda Foley urged members to take the issue into account during last election. “Electing Congressional representatives this November who will vote to enact the Employee Free Choice Act would be an important step” to advance collective bargaining, she wrote in September.

     Local guilds are just as blatant. The Albany Newspaper Guild has this headline on its Web site: “ Why do we support the Employee Free Choice Act?” and a link to the AFL-CIO. The Denver Guild links to a different part of the same AFL-CIO site with the headline: Why American Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act.”

     The CWA is even more obvious. A section on the group’s Web site urges visitors to “Tell Your U.S. Senators to Support the Employee Free Choice Act.”


     Ordinarily, even left-wing journalists might not support such a measure. But they romanticize unions and embrace the effort as a last-ditch attempt to save a struggling industry.

     Make no mistake, journalism is struggling. The most recent issue of the Columbia Journalism Review said “media job cuts rose 88 percent in 2006 over the year before.” The article by Julia M. Klein quoted a Challenger, Gray & Christmas report saying “17,809 media jobs were lost last year.” It also included a quote from Guild President Foley lamenting the situation. “It’s a very, very difficult bargaining environment at the moment.”

     It ought to be, for irony’s sake if nothing else. The irony was supplied by the February 26 Los Angeles Times. It pointed out that unions and their allies had “for 70 years championed the secret ballot for unionizing workers.”

     Now that they have switched strategies, there aren’t many in the media to point that out. That’s because too many of them are stuck in the past.

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.