Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pete Olson Responds: Why He Won't Vote For the Employee Free Choice Act

So every once in awhile I get an email blast from my teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers (an AFL-CIO affiliate), asking me to take action on this or that bill coming up in Congress. The other day I was asked to send a message to my US Senators and Congressman regarding the Employee Free Choice Act that is coming up for consideration.

The Employee Free Choice Act is an act that will allow trade unions to organize within places of business by amending the National Labor Relations Act.

In its current form, the NLRA allows a union to be certified as the “exclusive representative of bargaining unit employees” that is, the organization that represents employees who want to enter into collective bargaining with their employer, by means of what is called “card check” or by secret ballot. Everyone knows what secret ballot is, but what the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is “card check?”

Card check is where a majority (50.1%) of workers at a workplace sign a document saying that they want to form a union with union X representing them. This sounds all well and good, but the trouble with card check is that, under current law, the employer need not recognize the express wishes of its workers through a majority sign-up “card check” petition and can require a secret-ballot vote overseen by the NLRB. This allows an employer to refuse to allow employees to form a union, even though a majority of them signed a document saying they wanted to.

The Employee Free Choice Act takes that option away from employers, allowing formation of a union under card check rules. If employees do not want to go the card check route, they may still vote by secret ballot, but in the end, employers are taken out of the loop. Employers will have no say about whether employees will or will not form a union if the Employee Free Choice Act passes.

So I asked my 3 representative in Congress, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and my Congressman, Pete Olson, to vote for the EFCA.

Knowing, of course, that they would never do this. No way, no how.

I just wanted to make my political point, and I never expected a response, although I solicited one from each of them.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received the canned response from Pete Olson, the one written to answer all of those who are, as he believes, stooges of “unscrupulous union bosses.”

Here is his most helpful reply:

March 5, 2009

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting me regarding legislation to undermine the secret ballot in union organization elections. It is good to have your thoughts on this important issue.

Under current law, workers deciding whether to form a labor union at their place of employment have the right to cast their vote in secret. The so-called Employee Free Choice Act would allow unions to organize by simply submitting a public list of supporters. Workers who oppose unionization could be bullied and harassed by union bosses to sign public pledges of support, without recourse to the confidentiality of the ballot box.

Let me be clear: I believe this is not only bad labor policy, but un-American. Citizens of our country have died to protect the fundamental right to cast a confidential, freely-chosen ballot. Historically, the labor movement has done much to improve unacceptable working conditions - it's a shame that some unscrupulous union organizers should seek to bring the specter of intimidation and hostility into the workplace to further their own ends.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I am honored to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact one of my offices or visit my website at

Very respectfully,

Pete Olson
Member of Congress

So let me get this straight, Pete. It’s the “unscrupulous union bosses” that bully employees into signing the petitions, and it’s management that serves as a check on these unscrupulous people and invalidates a petition when they feel the signatures were coerced. Is that the picture you are sending me?

If so, I think I smell a rat. In whose self-interest does management act the company or the laborer? I think you are giving management far too much credit for protecting the poor downtrodden worker. It is labor that suffers at the hand of management, not at the hands of unions. Last time I looked it was labor hitting the unemployment lines, not management.

And where did you ever dig up this model of the “unscrupulous labor boss?” Whose book of lies has that myth been hatched? I’ll tell you exactly where this idea came from. It came from a book written by a prolific western writer named Walter V. Woehlke called “Union Labor in Peace and War” published in 1918. One of its chapters discusses how unions in the West are being influenced by Bolsheviks. You can read about it here.

Your information, Congressman Olson, is a little dated.

And I’ve heard of cherry picking the truth, but isn’t this going just a little too far? Comrade Lenin has been gone for some time, Pete. The Soviet Union is now a despotic capitalistic society.

Times change.

Join us, at some point, in the 21st century. The view is fine from here.


Marsha said...


My family has been involved in Unions of the working man since the early 1900's. My Grandfather helped get the Carpenter Union established in California. My father was a dues payer in the Teamsters Union, my brother was active in the in the Woodworkers Union and I have been and still am a member of AFSCME Union even though I retired in 1998 from the State of Texas. You can thank millions of union workers who have brought you benefits that the working people enjoy even today in these hard times. Rep. Pete Olson is either stupid or hasn't done his homework.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered why if unions can no longer "close shops" or force membership in TX (and most of the South) based on constitutional issues, how can HOAs force home and property owners to join them, especially given that in some cases there is no direct elections in many of the newer HOAs (like New Territory, Cinco Ranch, First Colony, Sienna Plantation, etc.). Shouldn't these "closed shops" be stopped too? And apparently they have the power to take your home away, not just your job.

Anonymous said...

It is you who needs to come into the 21st Century. If you believe Union Bosses don't use various tactics to coerce, cajole and force union membership you haven't been in the real world. I am not sticking up for employers just saying there is and are bullies on both sides

Hal said...

As reported on Fox News . . .