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Kinder joins pro-business effort against labor and "card check"

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2009 - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, is getting involved in another campaign -- this one against the congressional proposal called the Employee Free Choice Act, or dubbed "card check'' for short.

Kinder is joining former state Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, and others at an event Tuesday morning at the Viking Holiday Inn hotel in Sunset Hills. The gathering begins at 11:30 a.m. According to a release, attendees must pay $20 each.

The stop is among five statewide over the next week that are to feature Kinder and are organized by a group called Save Our Secret Ballot and headed by Loudon.

Said Kinder in a statement:

“I support the secret ballot as a cornerstone of the democratic right to free and fair elections. When the President and Congress have the impertinence to support a bill that would strip Missouri citizens of this right, it is both our duty and our privilege to unite in opposition.”

Last week, the group -- called SOS Ballot for short -- collected 10,000 like-minded signatures and delivered them to the Columbia, Mo. office of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a Democrat who likely is under intense pressure from unions to support the Free Choice Act. Loudon's group expects to deliver 40,000 more to McCaskill in the next few weeks.

As I explained in a post last week:

Also known as "card check," the proposed Employee Free Choice Act is strongly supported by labor unions, who spent time and money last year helping elect President Barack Obama. The Act, which now is before Congress, would allow workers to vote for union representation simply by filling out cards.

If a majority of the employees at a firm did so, the union would be approved as their representative. If the workers chose, a secret-ballot vote would be held. Now, a secret-ballot vote is required, but backers of card-check say that companies often delay such a vote while they intimidate or fire employees.

Business groups are strongly against card check, and some are helping to bankroll the campaign to discourage the Democrats controlling Congress from approving the measure.

Unions, meanwhile, are starting their own campaigns to persuade Democrats -- many of whom, including Obama, had signaled support for card-check in the 2008 campaign -- to approve the bill.

Loudon's group is among those in almost a dozen states who are seeking to counter Congress by getting measures put into those states' constitutions --including Missouri -- that would require secret ballot votes before unions could unionize. It's unclear how such measures would be affected by congressional approval of the Employee Free Choice Act.

According to its release:

The Save Our Secret Ballot Missouri coalition members include the National Federation of Independent Business, Associated Industries of Missouri, Southwest Area Manufacturers Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, Associated Builders & Contractors, Hogan Trucking, and the Independent Electrical Contractors.

Their anti-card check proposal is worded in such a way that it would apply to any action "where local, state or federal law requires elections for public office or ballot measures, or requires designations or authorizations for employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

Loudon is seeking to get the proposal on the 2010 ballot, which coincidentally would be at the same time as Missouri's next contest for the U.S. Senate, which so far would pit Republican Roy Blunt against Democrat Robin Carnahan. Blunt, now a congressman from southwest Missouri, opposes card check. Carnahan, now Missouri's secretary of state, has indicated her support.

Some Republicans see the SOS Ballot campaign as an effort aimed at energizing GOP turnout in 2010, much as the gay-marriage ban did in 2004 (and the Amendment 2 fight over stem cells energized both sides in 2006). The upshot would be to help Blunt and the GOP nominee for state auditor, as well as Republicans in local or regional contests, including those for the state Legislature.

According to Loudon, 40,000 Missourians have signed the group's initiative petition so far to get the proposal banning card check on the 2010 ballot. About 150,000 signatures will be needed.

Other tour stops include Springfield on Wednesday, Joplin on Thursday, Cape Girardeau next Monday and Kansas City on Aug. 13.

Loudon contended, “The terribly misnamed ‘Employee Free Choice Act’ represents the greatest government intrusion into private enterprise and the largest reversal of voting rights that our country has ever faced.:

He asserted that passage of card check "will cripple Missouri companies with as few as ten employees and deny workers their right to a secret ballot.  We must act now to protect this right for all elections, including union-organizing elections.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.