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Elimination of Secret Ballot Elections in Favor of Union Authorization Cards?

In a move patterned after the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which would apply to private sector employees, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee recently voted favorably (9-2) on a bill that would allow state and municipal employees to unionize without the use of a secret ballot election. HB-6534 would permit a union of public employees to be recognized as the exclusive representative of an employee unit when a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards. The card authorization process would be triggered when (1) a petition for unionization if filed with the State Labor Relations Board, (2) there is a question or controversy regarding union representation, and (3) there is only one union seeking the designation. At that point, a Labor Board agent would investigate and report his or her findings to the Board. The Board, after providing the parties the opportunity to submit briefs, could determine to certify the union based on a card check alone.

Supporters of the bill contend that the existing secret-ballot process does not work because employers spend significant resources to oppose unionization. While that may be true in the private sector, there is little evidence that the existing secret ballot election process fails to effectuate the desires of public employees who are eligible for collective bargaining. Indeed, one only has to compare the percentages of public sector employees who are unionized in Connecticut, with the percentage of private sector employees who have elected union representation, to see that there is no need to eliminate the traditional and democratic method of electing union representation. Unfortunately, HB-6534 is yet another example of unnecessary legislation that is proposed for all the wrong reasons.