House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Dear Colleague

November 19, 2008

"Thank the Lord" for Secret Ballots

Dear Colleague: 

Those of us who have been given the honor of being elected to the 111th Congress are gathering here in Washington this week to organize amongst our respective parties. We’re welcoming new members to our chamber, and we’re selecting the individuals who will lead our parties and help shape our policies. 

In selecting those leaders, we use the time-tested process of voting by secret ballot. And why wouldn’t we? Secret ballots allow individuals to vote their preference, free from intimidation, peer pressure, coercion, or retribution. 

It’s a right I value deeply, and – if news accounts are accurate – one that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle value as well. 

An article that appeared in today’s issue of CQ Today discussing the contest for the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee says the following: 

Many Democrats remained wary about showing their hands. Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter of New York has a vote on the Steering Committee and said she has made up her mind. But Slaughter declined to identify her choice. 

“It’s a secret ballot,” she said. “Thank the Lord.” 

I agree that the right to vote by secret ballot is something Americans can be grateful for. Unfortunately, that right we enjoy here in Congress may be in peril in American workplaces. It has been widely reported that labor union officials are pressing for enactment of so-called “card check” legislation in the first 100 days of the new Administration. Consider the following, from a November 6, 2008 article in CongressNow

Labor unions are pushing for Congress to consider “card check” legislation during the first 100 days of the Obama administration. ...  

Specifically, the bill would eliminate secret-ballot elections for creating a union, in favor of allowing a union if a majority of employees to sign cards designating the union as their bargaining representative. It also mandates arbitration if contract negotiations stall and imposes penalties on employers that coerce workers not to join unions. 

Each one of us was elected to serve by a secret ballot vote. This week, we have elected our parties’ leaders by secret ballot. How can any of us, who have seen firsthand the virtues of democratic, secret ballot elections, consider stripping workers of that same right? Yet that is exactly what is proposed by the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act,” a bill that gives workers anything but a free choice. 

Secret ballots are foundational to our democracy. As we organize our parties and set forth our agendas for the 111th Congress, I urge you to reject the undemocratic Employee Free Choice Act and stand with me in support of workplace democracy. 



Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
Senior Republican
Committee on Education and Labor