While the legislature is in session, the National Federation of Independent Business/California will be profiling anti-small business bills and the adverse effect they would have on California’s job creators. This is the first column of that series.

Former presidential candidate Sen. George McGovern has a message California’s legislators need to hear: “As Americans, we should strive to ensure that all of us enjoy the freedom of expression and freedom from fear that is our ideal and our right.” This progressive icon and pillar of the Democratic Party was addressing Congressional members of his own party and that party’s biggest financial supporter—labor unions.

This spring, Congress is expected to continue to discuss and debate unionization in the workplace through federal “card check” legislation, referred to by most as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). After reading the fine print, most would agree that a more appropriate name would be the “Employee Forced Choice Act.”

Currently, unions can organize within any workplace by asking workers if they would like to be represented by a collective bargaining agent and then petitioning the U.S. Labor Department for a recognition phase. But employers have the choice. They can recognize the union or call for a secret ballot election. The Employee Free Choice Act would put an end to that fairness and privacy in the workplace.

In addition to eliminating the secret ballot in union-organizing drives, EFCA would require binding arbitration, under which a government regulator would be able to dictate the terms of worker contracts. In some cases, there would no longer be wage negotiations, and for those small businesses that can’t afford healthcare, there would no longer be the option of not providing it. If unions choose not to negotiate, the National Labor Relations Board would do it for them.

As unions have seen their membership rolls wane significantly over the years, their leadership is grasping for anything to survive. And sadly, that includes piercing the heart of democracy by attempting to eliminate the very private balloting process they once defended and promoted.

If it weren’t bad enough that this threat to democracy was happening at the federal level, the California state legislature has jumped on the bandwagon and recently passed Senate Bill 789 out of the first policy committee. This bill empowers agricultural labor unions to bypass the secret ballot process by signing anything-but-private authorization cards. If a majority of employees signed up, the state would be required to certify a new bargaining unit.

If union bosses succeed in eliminating the secret ballot process within the agricultural industry, there’s no reason to believe it would stop there. This would only serve to jump-start the elimination of fairness and freedom at every level in the workplace, and will surely spread to all other segments of the business – the small business –community: restaurants, retail stores, small manufacturers, you name it.

In his My Party Should Respect Secret Union Ballots guest editorial in the Aug. 8, 2008 Wall Street Journal, Senator McGovern wrote, “I am sad to say it [EFCA] runs counter to the ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, EFCA risks silencing those who would speak … There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues … To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.”

California small businesses call upon our legislators to vote a collective and emphatic “NO” on SB 789, and when doing so they should remember that all Californians should be afforded the same privacy and protections in the workplace that they enjoy when casting a vote in our State Capitol. There should be no double standard when it comes to democracy.