National Restaurant Association: “Private ballots protect free choice”

(Washington, DC) – The National Restaurant Association today expressed disappointment following House passage of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

“We are deeply disappointed in the Members of Congress who voted for this bill,” said Peter Kilgore, the Association’s acting interim president and chief executive officer.  “Without holding a full committee hearing, the House rushed through this legislation in a matter of weeks without offering an opportunity for a comprehensive, fair debate.”

“A worker’s decision whether or not to participate in a union is an important one,” said Kilgore.  “We believe this is a decision that is best made in private, so that workers are protected from coercion and influence from both union representatives, employers or both.”

The Association, which represents an industry of 12.8 million employees who work at 935,000 restaurant and foodservice locations, considered the vote on final passage a “key vote,” as H.R. 800 is a top legislative priority for the restaurant industry this Congress.

The Association opposes the legislation because it would take away an employee’s right to a federally supervised secret-ballot process when deciding whether or not to join a union. It would replace secret ballots with a so-called “card-check” system that lets a union organize if a majority of workers simply sign a card. Under this flawed system, workers’ signatures are made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers.

Under the current system, employers have the option to demand an election in order to inform employees of management’s views on unionization.

“When a union is attempting to organize in a workplace, employees sometimes face intimidation and pressure about how they should vote from the union or from management or both,” said Kilgore. “The only way to guarantee employee protection is through the continued use of a federally supervised secret ballot so that personal decisions about whether to join a union remains private.”

“No one – employers or union organizers – should fear an election conducted by secret ballot. It is the only way to protect an individual’s freedom to choose without subtle or overt coercion.  Private ballots protect free choice,” said Kilgore. 

“We will be working closely with our members in the weeks and months ahead, informing them on how their representative voted on this legislation, and strongly encouraging our members to voice their disapproval of the card check process to those legislators.

“In addition, the Association will continue to communicate our opposition on this bill with Senators as this bill moves through the legislative process. We strongly urge the Senate to take a second look at this bill that severely restricts many of the nation’s hard-working Americans’ right to freely choose their own union representation. We are hopeful that the Senate will conduct a more thorough and extensive debate process than the House conducted,” said Kilgore.

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