Give teachers a secret ballot election process

Give credit to freshman Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, for her bill that protects teachers and their right to a secret ballot. Moon’s House Bill 264, if passed, would help school boards defend their professional school employees from being publicly pestered into supporting a labor union.

Idaho Freedom Foundation executive director Wayne Hoffman

Under a 2013 state law, teachers are not afforded the privacy of a secret ballot when it comes to union representation. It’s hard to believe, but it is true, that the lack of a secret ballot, even in Idaho, has resulted in teachers having to publicly fill out a form, a practice known as “card check.”

Card check is when labor unions ask employees to sign a card to indicate that they want to either join a union or have the union represent them in negotiations. Labor unions and liberal politicians love card check because it lets union bosses know who is with the union and who is not. Card check is easier and portends the outcome the union seeks. Labor bosses know which employees are on board and which aren’t. With dissenters identified, they can be cajoled or isolated.

The use of card check in Idaho has generated two predictable results. The first is that school labor unions have little difficulty obtaining the requisite number of employees necessary to negotiate on behalf of all teachers. School employees aren’t given much of an option to say no; taking the form home to fill it out is hardly an option. Second, some school districts have avoided asking unions to prove that they have a majority needed to begin negotiations. One school superintendent told me there’s no point in asking. Even though the union represents a minority of professional employees, asking the union to prove they have a majority means it will do exactly that — run all over the district in a hollow hunt for the numbers needed to cross the magic threshold.

Moon’s bill would allow a school board to require an election, the use of a secret ballot and a majority approval prior to beginning negotiations with a union. The results of the election, under Moon’s bill, would have to be validated by an independent third party. This election would also serve as a chance for professional employees to make it clear that they’re happy being represented by the union, which has negotiated for them in the past. If not satisfied with said representation, they can choose a new organization to provide that service.

Moon’s legislation would further empower local school boards. A board could decide that an election and a secret ballot are unimportant and never ask the union to prove itself. On the other hand, a school board might see the value of protecting the right of its school’s employees to having a secret ballot, which would help keep an important election free of undue influence and drama.

If a teacher wants to join a union or have a union represent her at the bargaining table, that’s a decision that should be solely her own. And, that teacher should be afforded the opportunity to make that decision privately, away from prying eyes and free of intimidation or cajoling. That’s at the heart of Moon’s legislation.

Written by Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.