October 15th, 2008
05:01 PM ET
6 years ago

Fact Check Update: Would Obama 'take away right' to secret ballot for unions?

CNN

Watch CNN's Alina Cho fact check Obama's union proposal.

The Statement
In a speech Monday, Oct. 13, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain took on Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama's stance on unions. "Senator Obama is measuring the drapes (in the White House), and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to ... take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections," he said.

Get the facts!

(Updated to correct the percentage of workers that need to sign authorization forms requesting union representation before the decision is finalized by secret ballot)

The Facts
McCain is referring to a plan supported by labor unions. Currently, workers must get at least 30 percent of their colleagues to sign an authorization form to ask for union representation - then hold a secret-ballot vote to finalize it. The change Obama supports would let a union be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board immediately after the majority signs the authorization.

Supporters of the change, including the AFL-CIO and other unions, say it would cut down on the ability of employers to pressure their workers to vote against a union. Business groups, meanwhile, say the opposite - that the secret ballot allows workers who don't want to unionize to publicly sign off on the plan, pleasing union leaders, then privately vote against it.

The change is part of the so-called Employee Free-Choice Act, which Obama co-sponsored. The plan is designed to make it easier to create unions in the workplace, and both supporters and opponents agree it would increase the number of union members in the United States. Backers say it will lead to better wages and benefits for workers and grow the size of the middle class, while opponents say it will hurt businesses by costing them more at a time when profits for many are already thin.

The bill passed the House last year by a vote of 241-185. It was also supported in the Senate, 51-48 - but that didn't reach the 60 votes that would have been needed to survive a filibuster on a final vote. That's also not enough to override a veto by President Bush, who is against it. Obama and running mate Sen. Joe Biden voted on June 26, 2007, to move the bill forward, while McCain voted against it.

Verdict: True. McCain accurately represents Obama's stance, although the candidates disagree on the merits of the plan. Organized labor backs Obama's position, while business groups and some non-union workers support McCain's.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
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