Opinion

Commentary: Free Choice Act is really no choice

If consistency is really the hobgoblin of little minds, then Hilda Solis and George Miller must be America's top ghostbusters. They think the secret ballot is the cornerstone of democracy, except for American workers deciding whether to join a labor union.

Miller is the U.S. House's chief sponsor of the Orwellianly named Employee Free Choice Act, a bill much-coveted by labor unions that would do away with secret-ballot voting when they're trying to organize a company workforce. And Solis, a former congresswoman from Southern California who is President Barack Obama's newly confirmed labor secretary, is EFCA's chief cheerleader.

Oddly enough, Miller and Solis used to think secret ballots were the very lifeblood of democracy. In 2001, introducing himself as someone "deeply concerned with international labor standards," Miller wrote Mexican officials urging them to allow workers to vote on unionization with secret ballots.

"The secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose," Miller wrote, adding that the practice "will help bring real democracy to the Mexican workplace." (The American workplace, I guess, is quite another matter.)

If that's not hobgoblin-free enough for you, consider Solis, who was in Miami last week promising labor leaders her full support for EFCA. Poor Solis felt quite differently in 2007 when she and her allies were losing a campaign for control of the congressional Hispanic Caucus. Back then, she was bitterly demanding a secret ballot. "It is important that the integrity of [the caucus] be unquestioned and above reproach," she wrote.

Miller and Solis, career politicians, have no trouble with the ethical and logical contortions required to oppose secret ballots in a country built on them. But I suspect the hobgoblins of most Americans will be wailing like banshees before the EFCA fight is over.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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