Paying back the unions with the coming of Obama.
So far Barack Obama has surprised supporters and opponents alike by choosing centrists for his economic and foreign policy teams. The leading exception is Labor Secretary-designate Rep. Hilda Solis, a long-time supporter of coercive unionism. The principal congressional battle is likely to be over so-called card check, which would allow Big Labor to intimidate its way to increased power.
People obviously should be free to join unions. But the vast majority of Americans choose not to do so, which is why organized labor represents only 7.5 percent of private sector workers.
Of course, Big Labor blames everyone else for its troubles. Evil employers. Economic woes. Unfair laws. So union officials want to fix the game.
Labor relations should be left up to companies and workers, with the government simply enforcing agreements and prohibiting violence. However, unions routinely attempt to win through politics what they cannot win through economics.
Current law requires that unions win a representation election to force recognition. Collecting cards signed by 30 percent of employees triggers a vote.
However, unions lose 40 percent of the time, so labor activists complain that America is, well, a bit like Nazi Germany. The AFL-CIO says that “workers still lack the freedom to form unions” and companies are blocking “workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life” and “putting corporate power ahead of the freedom to form unions.”
Labor activists prefer to collect cards than contest elections. Then employers have little opportunity to inform workers about the costs of unionization. Moreover, organizers know which workers have been naughty or nice, and can employ a variety of tools of “persuasion” to win signatures. The AFL-CIO organizing handbook admits that employees often sign cards to “get the union off my back.”
But unions use more than social pressure. Warns Carl Horowitz at the National Legal and Policy Center, card check “opens workers up to undue pressure from union reps and fellow workers who support them.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce observes that “the annals of NLRB case law are packed full of examples where card check elections have been challenged on coercion, misrepresentation, forgery, fraud, peer pressure, and promised benefits.”
Frustrated employees report harassing phone calls, groups of union organizers visiting workers’ homes, and threats of violence. For instance, Karen M. Mayhew, a Kaiser Permanente employee, complains of “badgering and immense peer pressure.” Mike Ivey of the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation told the National Right Work Legal Defense Foundation that “relentless” union organizers “created a hostile work environment” and misrepresented the significance of signing the cards.
There is little the government can do to protect employees. All told, argue James Sherk and Paul Kersey of the Heritage Foundation: “Cards collected under those circumstances often do not reflect employees’ free choice. Consequently card-check allows union activists to organize plants where a majority of workers oppose the union.” In practice, secret ballot elections remain the ultimate defense for workers.
Of course, Big Labor claims otherwise. Union lawyer Aaron Knapp said the legislation “does not affect the option to hold a secret ballot NLRB election,” even though the explicit goal of labor activists is to preempt a vote. For instance, Stewart Acuff of the AFL-CIO says: “Elections just don’t work.” Bruce Raynor of UNITE HERE argues that “There’s no need to subject the workers to an election.”
As a result, union lobbyists are pushing the hilariously misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act.” The AFL-CIO contends that it wants to “level the playing field for workers looking to form unions” by stopping them from voting. If 50 percent plus one of the workers sign a card, the union will be automatically recognized. Thus, organized labor can easily intimidate its way to victory. The bill should be called the “Employee No Choice Act.”
Explained Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the bill is “payback.” He added, “Unions paid their dues by supporting Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama in this year’s election.” This explains the nomination of Rep. Solis.
IF APPROVED — in 2007 a Senate filibuster launched by a much stronger Republican caucus killed the bill — card check would bolster union ranks and budgets. For instance, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union, which has been caught up in the Rod Blagojevich scandal, forecasts that ECFA would cause unions to “grow by 1.5 million members a year, not just for five years but for 10 to 15 straight years.” Increased labor revenues would run in the billions of dollars.
That’s a lot of extra cash. Some of it undoubtedly would go for more organization campaigns. Warns Jack Welch, formerly of General Electric, the result could be “a surge in unionization across U.S. industry — and in time, a reversion to the bloated economy that brought America to its knees in the late 1970s and early '80s and that today cripples much of European business.” It is hard to imagine a worse time for a turn towards economic stasis, with the U.S. in recession and a multitude of companies seeking public bail-outs.
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