Protect the Right to a Union Secret Ballot Election

In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court stopped the unjust arrangement of forcing public sector workers to fund the political stances of a union they didn’t join. Instead of embracing this victory for free speech and association rights, unions and their legislative friends have sought to scale back workplace freedom.

Sponsors of the so-called Pa. Workplace Freedom Act, Rep. Maureen Madden and Rep. Tom Mehaffie, claim this important victory for First Amendment rights is actually a disaster. In response, they propose a “simple card check” and “access to new employees” to supposedly defend the freedom to join and form unions.

The reality? Janus expanded workers’ rights, while this proposal does the exact opposite, taking away an individual's secret ballot during a unionization vote.

Workers deserve to have their voices protected without threat of harassment or coercion.


Though proponents claim these tactics cut through red tape, the current secret ballot election process already favors unionization—and subsequently confers extensive privileges to certified unions. Here’s how:

  • Interest in unionizing from thirty percent of workers triggers an election. Employees cast anonymous ballots in a secret election supervised by the Pennsylvania Labor Relation Board (PLRB).
  • A simple majority of ballots cast will certify a union. Meaning, once elected, the union negotiates compensation and working conditions for all workers, even if most employees did not vote or voted against representation.
  • Once elected, a government union never has to stand for re-election, and then enjoys the protections of an onerous decertification process. As a result, more than 99 percent of current Pennsylvania public school teachers and state government workers have never voted for their union.

Replacing the secret ballot process would be a further regression for workplace democracy. Under the proposed unionization tactics:

  • Union organizers can pressure workers—in their workplace and even at their homes—to publicly sign cards supporting unionization. If a union collects authorization cards from a simple majority of employees, it becomes the exclusive representative without an election.
  • If workers don’t support unionization, or realize too late the implications of signing the card, they no longer have the right to request a secret ballot election challenging card check.
  • The process makes workers’ views public, exposing union-resistant, undecided, and pro-union workers to intimidation and pressure, as countless stories across the nation attest. Workers deserve to have their voices protected without threat of harassment or coercion.

Loss of the secret ballot rights deals a serious blow to workplace freedom, but also matters to taxpayers. As an exclusive representative, union leaders have the sole privilege of regularly negotiating costly, taxpayer-funded contracts with government officials—all behind closed doors.

Take the example of CedarBrook nursing home in Lehigh County. After years of failed unionization attempts, a sly card check campaign unionized nursing home employees and has contributed to layoffs and financial woes.

True pro-workers reforms begin with ensuring all workers are aware of their new found rights to not pay fees (legislation Rep. Kate Klunk will soon introduce), requiring routine union elections, and enhancing transparency in contract negotiations. Instead of making unionization easier by enabling worker intimidation, union leaders and legislators should advocate for more accountability and rights for workers.