Archive for November, 2008
Clive Crook over at the National Journal has an interesting piece on the auto bailout, and the unions’ role in the domestic automotive industry’s downfall:
Productivity in some of the domestic producers’ plants is now as good as in nonunion plants run by foreigners. But this came late, and only under duress. It took the imminent collapse of the industry to moderate the unions’ demands.
Unions destroyed Britain’s car industry, and during the 1960s and ’70s they accelerated the decline of British manufacturing and of the wider economy as well. Of course, they were far more powerful in those days than U.S. unions have ever been. Unions in America today are weak and getting weaker — a trend that they hope to reverse with the incoming administration’s help.
The point of the comparison is not to suggest that America might get a case of the pre-Thatcher British disease, but simply to question the Democrats’ conviction that stronger unions serve their voters’ wider interests. Look at GM, and tell me that strong unions are good for the economy
On Monday The Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC) is launching the second phase of its public education campaign with an aggressive television ad that addresses how the Employee “Forced” Choice Act will further hurt the economy. The ad, which is running nationally on CNN and Fox News, details how union leaders played a substantial role in the demise of the U.S. auto industry.
EFAC has already spent $20 million – the most of any anti-EFCA organization – on a public education campaign criticizing the attempt by labor unions and their friends in Congress to eliminate the secret ballot vote in union organizing elections.
The transcript of the new ad is as follows:
Steel, Auto, Airlines
What do these industries all have in common?
Hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and union bosses that helped put them out of business.
If you think the economy is bad now, it could get worse.
Union bosses are pushing their own bailout bill in Congress that could force employees to pay union dues against their will.
Economists say it will cost jobs and damage the economy.
Fight the Employee “Forced” Choice Act at EmployeeFreedom.org
“If Americans like what the unions did to Detroit’s economy, they’ll love what the unions will do to the country,” said Richard Berman, executive director of the Employee Freedom Action Committee. “The unions have played a significant role in nearly bankrupting the Big Three automakers with untenable inefficiencies which have put tens of thousands out of work. With the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act, unions are poised to do the same to millions of jobs across the country.”
“President-elect Obama and the incoming Congress were elected by a secret ballot vote, yet labor unions and their front groups like American Rights at Work are pursuing the effective elimination of that right for millions of Americans,” said Berman.
This campaign is the continuation of a two year effort by the Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee to educate the public about corrupt union bosses. The efforts have been featured by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, CNBC, and many others.
The Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC) called on Senate Democrats to replace today’s secret ballot vote over Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s (D-CT) committee chairman status with the public open vote method they would like to implement in union organizing elections.
Democrats are slated to cast a secret ballot vote today to decide whether Lieberman will maintain the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. That stands in stark contrast with their support for the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which will effectively eliminate the secret ballot vote in union organizing elections. EFCA is expected to be one of the first items on the legislative agenda in 2009.
Good morning folks. For those of you playing at home, the race to stop EFCA tightened up overnight. As of this morning, Sen. Norm Coleman’s lead against Democratic comedian Al Franken narrowed to just 236 votes—and that’s before the hand recount that is set to begin next week.
The Senate currently stands at 55 Democrats, 2 Independents that caucus with the Democrats, and Arlen Spector who voted for the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007. There are three undecided Senate seats in Alaska, Georgia, and Minnesota. The bottom line is clear: as former UFCW hack Paul Blank told the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the battle over EFCA is going to look like “political World War III.”
In the meanwhile, here is where we stand today:
Today’s Tampa Bay Tribune has an editorial against EFCA titled “Unions Seek New Clout With Strong-Arm Tactics”:
But labor does a disservice to those it would represent by using this time of economic uncertainty to strengthen its hand. Workers can ask for union representation if they want it, but unions should not be permitted to pressure workers to join against their will.
The Investors Business Daily also has an editorial against EFCA:
With a righteous wind at their backs and card-check legislation in their pockets, unions will aggressively try to organize low-price retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. This might result in higher wages for some workers, but it could also increase prices for consumers as well as drive now-successful retailers into the same economic ditch that unions shoved the U.S. auto industry into.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Andrew S. Ross quotes Jonathan Tasini who asks a good question:
“Now that the bill is closer to reality, will conservative Democrats go for it, especially given a knockdown, drag-out fight with the business community?”
- Finally, the Savannah Morning News editorializes that Georgia voters should support Chambliss to prevent passage of the “misnamed Employee Free Choice Act.”
I’m sorry we’ve been quiet for the last few days. As I’m sure you can imagine, we’re pretty busy around here. After all, as former UFCW operative Paul Blank put it in today’s WSJ, the battle over the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act is going to look like “political World War III.”
That being said, here are a few items worth reading:
Yesterday the AFL-CIO held a press conference victory lap where this exchange occurred:
QUESTION: I’m Mark Shepp (ph) with Workforce National Magazine.
Just one more follow-up on the Employee Free Choice Act. If the Republicans do have a minority that supports — enough of a minority to support a filibuster, are there areas you’d be willing to compromise on that? Are there facets of that bill that you would negotiate on?
SWEENEY: If there were, we wouldn’t tell you today.
And the most articulate speaker on this is our secretary-treasurer, Rich Trumka.
TRUMKA: First of all, you have a new president-elect that is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. You have a vice president-elect that is a co-sponsor of theEmployee Free Choice Act. You have stronger majority in the Senate and the House that say they want to pass that bill because it’s important for America’s workers.
There are an infinite number of strategies other than a straight- up vote where you need 60 votes in order to get that passed. And we can assure you of this: Each and every one of them will have our full attention and full support at the appropriate time.
Over at the SEIU, here’s what Andy Stern had to say about their post-election plans:
“During the first 100 days of the 111th Congress, we’re going to dedicate 50 percent of our staff and resources to passing priorities for working families like the Employee Free Choice Act and health care for all.”
Ok, ok, I know, I was excited too when I saw that Hans Moleman came out against the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act, but “Hans” is not really Hans, he is really a longtime union organizer from the National Education Association. Here is what Mr. “Moleman” has to say on today’s National Review Online:
The underlying problem is that unions have shrunk almost to the point of no return in the private sector. Union leaders admit that they pursue EFCA because they cannot organize under the present regime of effective employer campaigns and interminable legal delays. It is an act of desperation.
There is another path labor could take. It could ask itself why so many workers find unions so unattractive, and it could make changes to become more attractive. But they are unwilling to face the central fact of their difficulties: workers have come to see unions as political organizations for which Democratic Party victory is more important than workplace gains.
In the 1930’s when the AFL proved unable to organize industrial workers, far-sighted union leaders built a new type of union for the purpose: the CIO. We could use some similarly far-sighted leaders today. EFCA will just delay the day.
Labor’s best hope is that it be denied the kind of protection it seeks. The law should be changed to make elections fairer, not to eliminate them.
The Employee Free Choice Act’s deceptive name isn’t the only thing confusing about the bill. Reading it line for line will likely leave more unanswered questions than actual answers. We’ve answered a fair number of them here, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
Case in point is this article from labor lawyer Daniel Johns:
1. How Closely Will The NLRB Regulate Cards And Card-Signing?
Given the use of union cards in the current NLRB representation process – to establish the requisite 30 percent support for filing a union representation petition – the NLRB has traditionally taken a hands-off approach with respect to their regulation. Employers are not allowed to inspect cards, and the NLRB does not generally allow employers to litigate at a representation hearing issues such as fraud, forgery, or coercion in the union’s obtaining of cards. The NLRB also generally does not invalidate cards on the basis of timeliness so long as the cards were signed during the current organizing campaign.
A hands-off approach towards the timeliness and manner in which cards have been obtained makes sense in a system in which cards do not determine the final result. However, when the signing of cards is the whole ballgame – as it is with EFCA – the NLRB cannot continue to cast a blind eye toward card abuses. Moreover, how can a six-month-old card, or a month-old card for that matter, be viewed as a current expression of an employee’s interest in union representation? Feelings change about unions, particularly when there is not a union organizer blocking an employee’s car in his driveway and asking the employee to sign a card so that he can leave his house. Will the NLRB continue to keep its distance from card abuses and timing questions in an EFCA world?
2. What Is The “Laboratory Conditions” Period For Purposes Of A Card Campaign?
The NLRB generally requires that there be “laboratory conditions” during union representation campaigns. Such a requirement is important so that employees can express their true desires about unionization free of threats and coercion. To support the “laboratory conditions” necessary for a fair election, employers are generally prohibited from changing the terms and conditions of employment for bargaining-unit employees during a campaign. The NLRB is particularly stringent about violations of the “laboratory conditions” period with respect to abuses that take place immediately before or during the voting period.
This concept encounters problems with EFCA because there are potentially no starting or stopping points for union campaigns. Will an employer be expected to maintain the status quo indefinitely once a few cards have been signed? How will the NLRB establish notice of a card-signing campaign in the absence of a petition? Will the NLRB strictly apply the “laboratory conditions” standard to the behavior of union representatives obtaining cards? Will the current NLRB scheme of regulating campaign conduct be scrapped once we enter the realm of the never-ending union campaign? These questions simply must be dealt with if there is any hope of a fair and rational NLRB-representation process in an EFCA world.
3. What Would The Process Be For A Decertification Campaign?
EFCA is silent on the process for decertifying a union as the representative of employees. Surely, unions cannot promote the replacement of secret-ballot elections when it comes to representation elections while also advocating those same purportedly faulty secret-ballot elections for decertification campaigns. Would decertification be ordered based purely on an employee petition signed by more than 50 percent of the bargaining unit? Would the NLRB develop a sample decertification card for employees’ use in such a campaign? Why should it be harder to get rid of a union than it is to get one?
4. Would Employers Have A Right To Appeal Unfavorable Interest Arbitration Decisions?
EFCA provides nothing about an employer’s (or union’s) right to appeal an interest arbitration decision that it believes is unreasonable or economically infeasible. If there is a right to appeal interest arbitration awards (and there is nothing in the proposed legislation to suggest that there is), what court or agency would hear it? What standards would be used to consider such an appeal? Is there any way to obtain relief from an untenable and burdensome interest arbitration award?
5. Do Employees Have The Right To Strike During Interest Arbitration Proceedings?
Most public-sector employees who fall under interest arbitration laws, such as police officers and firefighters, do not have the right to strike. EFCA is silent on employees’ right to strike while an interest arbitration proceeding is pending. Would employees have the right to strike while participating in an interest arbitration proceeding? How can arbitrators calmly and rationally decide what a first contract should be while employees are on strike?