While the whole country is focused on the meltdown of the financial markets and the looming Presidential election, Congress is up to no good. Right now, under consideration on Capitol Hill is a union-supported “card check” bill (the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA for short) which would strip the American working man and woman of a number of their cherished rights and make it harder for companies to do business.

You see, the whole point of this bill is to help unions recover some of the power and prestige they once had, but have in large part lost as more and more workers—who already have good relationships with managers and fair pay and benefits—have chosen not to join unions. While of course there are some legitimately bad places to work that could benefit from reform, the vast majority of the workplaces I’ve seen—and I’ve seen a lot—are decent places to work run by small businesspeople who care about the well being of their employees. The other insidious thing about unionizing is that it promotes mediocrity and stifles individual advancement and creativity. By “collectively bargaining”, people who are willing to work harder or smarter are eternally penalized by being stuck in the same boat with people who may not share those sensibilities.

First and foremost, this card check legislation would make it so that American workers lose their right to a secret ballot vote in union-organizing elections. The bill proposes that union officials be allowed to approach potential union members to ask them to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to form a union by checking a vote card right on the spot: any time, any place, and regardless of who is around—coworkers, management, friends, family, etc. Is it just me, or does this situation seem ripe for potential coercion or harassment? Just think of your run-of-the-mill episode of The Sopranos. And aren’t those the very reasons the private ballot has become a bedrock principle of the American democratic tradition?

Of course, the legislation doesn’t stop there. In addition to taking away the private ballot, EFCA would also make it so a simple majority of workers voting for unionization could force a union on a company, as well as on the workers who didn’t vote to unionize. Once unionized, of course, these workers would also be subject to paying union dues just when the economic pinch is hitting them hard, and would have to submit to the standard union-seniority system of promotion, limiting the possibilities for financial and job growth for these workers and their families.

The bill would also inject a federal arbitrator into any negotiations between unions and management that go over a paltry 120 days; this arbitrator would be able to make binding decisions regarding pay, workplace conditions, and benefits—stripping workers of their say in the most basic components of their working lives. And the proposed penalties against the employer are just astronomical.

Now, as bad as this bill is for the American worker, it could be worse for American businesses—especially small businesses. At the very time when the tight credit market is making doing business in this country increasingly difficult, EFCA would make it harder still by adding another layer of red tape to the already costly bureaucratic burden our businesses shoulder. The bill would also make it more difficult to do business by inserting an unnecessary layer in communications between employers and workers—the unions.

In most places these days, unions are simply unnecessary; to try and force them on workers by stripping them of their rights is bad enough—to do so with full knowledge of how this could negatively affect the economy during the worst economic downturn of our times is near criminal.

When you go to the ballot box in the next 30 days, think about the unions’ agenda and the candidates they support. If succcessful in these elections, those officeholders will be prepaid political pawns ready to toe the union line.