This vote was on an amendment by Mark Souder, R-Ind., that would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from recognizing a new employee union if it was not chosen by a secret-ballot election. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Labor, Health and Education departments in fiscal 2008.
By law, unions may only be recognized if they are selected through a secret ballot vote, or by signing what amounts to a petition (often called a "card check"), which reveals the signatories' names to union officials and also company officials.
Souder said card check votes, which make employees' choice a matter of public record, can lead to intimidation and coercion and that they should be eliminated.
"I believe that the right to have a private vote is very important. I think the only way to have a fair election that we know that people want to form a union is to have a private ballot, and that’s the intent of this amendment, to restrict the enforcement of anything not allowing a private ballot," Souder said.
George Miller, D-Calif., said Souder's amendment would go much farther than what he described. He said his amendment would in essence mean that the National Labor Relations Board could not enforce either party's obligation to bargain in good faith following the recognition of a union that was voluntarily agreed upon, including those that had already been established.
"An employer and an employee can get together, they can voluntarily enter into an agreement by which they have their working relationship, and if they’re down the road at some point, one of them wants to bring an action, the employer against the employees or the employees against the employer for not bargaining in good faith, the National Labor Relations Board couldn’t enforce that," Miller said. "It doesn’t even have to be through the card check process. Any voluntary agreement, you’re suggesting that somehow these people would not be able to enforce that agreement once it was entered into. This undermines the rights of potentially millions of American workers that have already organized under voluntary recognition agreements and already engaged in a collective bargaining relationship."
By a vote of 167-255, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 164 voted for the amendment and 32 voted against it. All but three Democrats present voted against the amendment (Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina). The end result is that an amendment that would have prevented unions from being formed through card check votes was defeated.