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Whoa, these people are serious. The Save Our Secret Ballot group (S.O.S.), headed in Missouri by ex-State Senator John Loudon (R-Chesterfield), is revving up a petition initiative for 2010. It’s one of five such campaigns already underway: Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada, and Utah are the other four. And the S.O.S. people expect to run similar campaigns in 20 to 30 states.

Bad enough that the Ward Connerlys schlep in here from out of state every election year. But 22 months early? They’re as serious as a suicide bomber.

And they’ll do more damage than one, because they’ll harm the livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans by keeping the system rigged so that it’s near to impossible to form a  union. Their aim is to override the effects of the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check), coming soon to a Wal-Mart and a Walgreens near you. It will pass in Congress and be signed by Obama, who co-sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Considering the umpteen billions at stake for Big Business, the opposition is heavy. If you type Employee Free Choice Act into Google, the first three entries will be wingnut websites determined to stop the “Big Labor Bailout”. The Workforce Fairness Institute (Orwell lives on!) calls Card Check the “Employee Forced Choice Act”, and it shows a ballot box shaped like the U.S., with a hand putting a ballot into it.  

However scummy their motivation, though, they get points for brilliant framing. Forget admitting that their goal is to prevent workers from getting better pay and benefits, that they don’t give a damn about whether the middle class survives in this country; the S.O.S. crowd focuses instead on our precious right to privacy when we vote. Card check would mandate that if more than fifty percent of the employees in a workplace sign a card saying they want a union there, the employer must allow a union to form immediately. But, protests S.O.S., that denies employees the right to have their vote kept private.

Gasp. Envision Stalinist thugs monitoring you as you mark your ballot for the only name on it.

Never mind the fact that secret ballots are allowed under Card Check if the workers prefer that. And especially never mind the irony that the S.O.S.ers belong to the party that disenfranchises Democratic voters as often as they can get away with it. To hear John Loudon talk, you’d swear he’d defend the sacred right to vote with his life.

“We’re trying to guarantee the right to a secret vote in city hall or in the workplace, free from intimidation,” Loudon said. “Unless the vote is secret, you’re exposed to undue intimidation for whatever reason.”

Loudon et. al. know they can’t stop Card Check now, so they’re aiming for constitutional amendments in as many states as possible that would take precedence over Card Check, requiring secret ballots. Why? Assuming they’re not really that enamored of workers’ right to privacy, what do they have to gain?

A year, that’s what they have to gain. They get a year in any given workplace from the mandate to hold a secret election until the election actually occurs. A year to intimidate workers and frighten them. A year to hold meetings in which they threaten to close the workplace and bloviate about the evils of unions. A precious year that usually succeeds in scaring away enough workers to defeat the union proposal.

And to buy the bosses that year, the John Loudons in five states–so far–are peddling some poisonous drink:

“The response has been enthusiastic support once people get over the initial shock of realizing they don’t already have a constitutional protection to privacy in this area,” he said. “This country was founded on liberties, and our protections are a model for the world. Anything that would go against those and the revelation that we aren’t as well protected as we thought is pretty shocking to people. Once we tell people rights are possibly going to be taken from you, they respond very enthusiastically wanting to fight back and defend those rights.”

Yeah, well, before voters take a sip, they need to be reminded that, under Card Check, secret elections are still an option and they need to hold Loudon’s Kool-Aid up to the light of history:

The last thirty years have been the Dark ages, though, for the labor movement in this country. The labor laws have been a dismal joke. Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 workers are illegally fired every year for trying to organize unions. And 75 percent of the time, when a union drive starts gathering steam, corporations hire union busters. The days of guys wielding baseball bats for that purpose are over. Now businessses hire law firms that specialize in slowing the process to a crawl.

Consequently, … thirty million workers go to full time jobs every day and yet make less than poverty level wages. We are becoming what Warren Buffett calls “a sharecropper nation.”

Believe it. Target and Home Depot, Motel 6 and Applebee’s will kick in funds to S.O.S. Their profits are threatened. And so, like it or not, Missouri is in for another fight with a passel of carpetbaggers.