The most pungent argument against the Employee Free Choice Act, or "card check," informs workers that the legislation would take away secret ballot elections AND warns them that union bosses could use coercion to collect the "yes" cards.  The moment that argument reaches critical mass, the thinking goes, workers will reject card check.  Getting over the "secret ballot" and "coercion" humps are tough.  But labor officials have reason to believe that the poisonous economic atmosphere can influence the debate as much as the complex particulars of the bills.  I've obtained internal polling from the AFL-CIO's contract surveyist, Peter Hart, which presents the anti-secret ballot and coercion arguments alongside the standard case for EFCA.

I am going to read you two statements about this legislation, and please tell me which one you agree with more.

 

Supporters say that the system is broken and working people are struggling to make ends meet today, and the middle class is being squeezed.  One way to help average people get their fair share is to let them bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.  Workers in unions earn twenty-eight percent higher wages on average, are sixty-two percent more likely to have employer health coverage, and four times as likely to have a pension.  It's time our economy worked for everyone again.

 

Opponents say that this legislation is a bad idea because it would abolish the secret ballot elections now held to determine union representation. This legislation would force more workers into unions, because union bosses can use coercion or deception to collect authorization cards.  And with our economy already weak, we don't need laws that give more power to the unions that wrecked the American auto industry.

 

According to Hart, a respected Democratic pollster, 54% of those responding to those two arguments read in random order support the card check principles, compared to just 35% who oppose them.

 

Before I read too much into this, I'd want to see precisely how Hart identifies himself and his firm... and whether previous questions favorably predispose the respondent to support card check. Still, the questions themselves seem fair enough. I'd love to see a non-partisan pollster ask the same ones.

 

I'm also skeptical of how Gallup worded their latest poll. "Generally speaking," 53% of Americans support legislation to make it easier for unions to organize. That's accounted for by the above-mentioned atmospherics. 

 

But "card check" isn't a "general" piece of legislation, as the AFL-CIO's own internal message testing points out.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.