The NLRB has issued an RFI (Request for Information) to identify firms who can provide the means for employees at businesses across the country to "vote" electronically on whether they want union representation. The idea would be that, sitting in the comfort of their own home . . . or the union hall, employees can use a computer, telephone or some other electronic means to register their choice on election day. This method of voting, so the argument goes, avoids the "intimidation" employees may feel when voting in a voting booth by secret ballot at their place of employment. Not only that, it would save the NLRB money by avoiding the need to send field agents to the companies where elections are scheduled. No ballot, no voting booth, no assurance of privacy, and no protection from someone looking over the employee’s shoulder, or worse, as she votes. And electronic voting can be ordered administratively by the agency in the dead of night rather than through legislation undertaken in the light of day.
It takes only a moment’s reflection to understand that the use of electronic voting is virtually identical to the card check proposal that the American public and many in Congress would not support during the debate over the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). What is the difference? The opportunity for coercion, threats and other misconduct interfering with employee free choice is apparent in both "voting" methods. The only variation is that instead of the union representative having to lug the cards all the way down to the NLRB’s office, the union representative can push the electronic voting button for the employee. The fact that EFCA is virtually dead lends credence to the view that this is nothing more than an end run around the legislative process that defeated EFCA.
Employers and other groups that spent so much time and effort exposing EFCA as a thinly veiled mechanism to deny American workers the freedom of choice had better not sit on the sidelines for this either. Otherwise, they will find that the most heinous part of EFCA was slipped in right under their noses.