Legal scholar Richard Epstein has a great op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal detailing the constitutional problems with the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to bypass secret-ballot elections and declare their intent to unionize by signing cards:
It is commonly supposed that economic regulation is immune to constitutional challenge since the New Deal. That's not the case with this labor law.
Consider card check and the First Amendment. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) today, an employer can insist upon a secret ballot after 30% of workers indicate by card checks their interest in a union. The campaign that follows lets the employer air his views about the downsides of unionization before the vote takes place.
To be sure, the employer's free-speech rights are limited under the NLRA. He cannot threaten to move or shut down if workers vote for the union. Nor can he promise higher wages if they don't. But he can make predictions of what will happen if his firm is unionized, and he can point to the reversal of worker fortunes in other unionized firms.
The Supreme Court (unfortunately, in my view) has held that the peculiar labor-law environment justified these abridgements of ordinary speech rights. But it hardly follows that if the government can curtail speech rights, the EFCA can eliminate them. There is simply no legitimate government interest in promoting unionization that justifies a clandestine organizing campaign which denies all speech rights to the unions' adversaries.