Workers' Choice Pays Benefits

Auto workers in Alabama have the choice to join a union while workers in Michigan do not. If more politicians in Michigan would be willing to stand up to the labor union bosses, the auto industry would be in much better shape — perhaps doing as well as in Alabama. The Birmingham News takes an insightful look:

If organized labor is looking at a shaky economy as an opportunity to elbow into Alabama’s auto manufacturing industry, union bosses must be reading their own propaganda.

A bad economy would be the worst time for workers at Alabama’s three major auto plants – Mercedes in Vance, Honda in Lincoln and Hyundai in Montgomery – to look for the union label.

These are difficult times for auto manufacturers all over the nation, and Alabama is no different. With car building a relatively new industry in the state, this is the first serious economic challenge. But even with the downturn, Alabama’s manufacturing plants are doing better than many others.

Mercedes has cut production to bring the number of vehicles produced more in line with decreased demand.

Honda also has trimmed production, but is bringing new models to the plant in Lincoln.

Hyundai has not announced any cutbacks, but if demand continues to weaken, production cuts at the assembly plant are a good bet.

Yet, none of the companies has laid off any employees in Alabama.

The argument by organized labor that union membership will assure Alabama auto workers job protection is undercut by the layoffs and closings at auto assembly plants elsewhere, especially in the heavily unionized Midwestern rust belt. Those union jobs are hardly secure.

Unions have a better shot at organizing a plant if workers are upset about working conditions, pay or job security. There are no serious complaints about working conditions or pay at the Alabama plants. With the economy limping along, there can be no absolute job guarantees. That would be the situation whether auto manufacturers run union or nonunion shops.

The real risk – to unionizing auto manufacturing plants and many other businesses in Alabama and across the nation – is the misguided and misnamed Employee Free Choice Act being pushed by Democrats in Congress.

Under that bill, which has little chance of passing this year, but will surely be a top priority of the next Congress, workers would be prevented from using a secret-ballot election to certify a union. If a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, the union will be certified.

With no secret ballot, union leaders could intimidate workers into signing the card. Just as elsewhere, peer pressure can be powerful in the workplace, too.

Voters shouldn’t have to explain their ballot in the presidential election, a governor’s election or a union election. That’s why in the United States we cherish the secret ballot. People should be allowed to vote their conscience without pressure, as the secret ballot guarantees.