• This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," March 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST: Up next on "The Journal Editorial Report," it's brass knuckle time for big labor as their drive to end secret ballots in union elections turn nasty. But are some Democrats going wobbly?

    Plus, lessons from the Madoff swindle. Have investors learned anything? And will investigators be able to spot the next big scam?

    The charity rose bowl. Liberal nonprofits seeing red with the Obama plan to sock it to rich donors.

    "The Journal Editorial Report" begins right now.

    Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    Big labor's drive to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections came back to Capitol Hill this week as the so-called Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in both houses of Congress. The bill, which would allow unions to gain representation simply by showing cards signed by a major of workers, has business groups united in opposition. Labor chiefs are putting on the brass knuckles threatening companies with government retaliation if they don't stop lobbying against it.

    Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and senior editorial writer, Colin Levy.

    Kim, I've never seen business as united against legislature in 20 or 30 years. Explain to our viewers why are they so opposed? How this would work.

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: There's two aspects to this bill. One, as you mentioned, has to do with secret elections. Instead of having secret elections and going and voting your conscious as to whether or not you want to join the union, you would have to go and sign a card. This would be an ongoing process. And when unions finally got more than 50 percent of workers who signed this card, then they would get a union. That's one part of it.

    The second part has to do with what's known as mandatory arbitration. It would say any newly created union, if they were having difficult coming to a first contract with their employer, it would get tossed to some sort of federal arbitrator who would make a decision about the contract.


    GIGOT: And that second part, in particular, would put unions in the driver's seat when it comes to being able to negotiate a contract. If they can't settle after 120 days, the union could run out of clock and this arbitrator would settle in between whatever the two offers were.

    James, I think this is the biggest — this would be the biggest change in union law in 60 years. So this is labor's number one priority.

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSITANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Huge. And the reason they're bringing out the brass knuckles, the reason they're trying to stop this advertising and lobbying campaign is because it's working. This is really bad policy saying you want to take away the secret ballot. I have to believe if there's one vote where Mitch McConnell can hold his caucus...

    GIGOT: He's the Republican major leader.

    FREEMAN: Then you look at Democrats. This is a tough vote, especially for moderate southern Democrats, saying we're going to take away secret ballot or in the arbitration setting, we'll let the government set pay and benefits.

    GIGOT: Colin, what are unions doing to get businesses to stop lobbying against them?

    COLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL WRITER: It's a classic case where they're using their toughest tactics to push their legislative agenda. They've written a letter — a group of unions led by the Service Employees International Union, wrote a letter a few weeks ago to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggesting that these banks or companies that receive funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Programs shouldn't be able to lobby — shouldn't be able to lobby.

    GIGOT: Saying to Geithner, look, you should cut these folks off if they keep lobbying against us. And they mentioned specifically the principal financial group out of Des Moines which had been playing a role against this.