CNBC’s Power Lunch program featured a mini-debate yesterday on the card-check legislation between Beth Shulman, a Washington attorney representing organized labor, and the NAM’s own director of human resources policy, Jason Straczewski, representing truth, justice and the American way. (Video here.)
Now, all credit to CNBC for covering the issue, but a 3-minute segment is by its nature limiting. Spin, misstatements and flat-out falsehoods fly by so quickly, rebuttal becomes nigh unto impossible.
So we thought we’d take Shulman’s claims and give Jason the space to refute them point-by-point. Labor’s assertions are outstandingly misleading, by that’s hardly a surprise, given the egregious assault that H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, represents against employee free choice. An accurate portrayal of the bill would mean its quick death.
For Jason Straczewski’s full rebuttal, please check out the extended entry below.
Sue Herera, CNBC Power Lunch: Why is this bill so important?
Shulman: This bill is so important because it really opens up a path for workers to move into the middle class. You know, when the workplace was organized, 35 percent of the workplaces were organized, we had the largest middle class in American history. But today, even though a majority of workers say in a recent poll that they want to have a union, they can’t have it. They don’t have that opportunity.
The facts: When actually explained how this bill would work, overwhelmingly 87 percent of voters disagree with the purpose of the legislation. Seven out of 10 voters would consider voting against their member of Congress if they supported this bill. Sure, a majority of Americans would like to have a union, but they clearly do not want it at the cost of their individual freedoms.
Shulman: Because every 23 minutes, every 23 minutes, workers are either fired, harassed or intimidated by their employers merely by exercising their right to join a union. That’s not fair, that’s not free, and it really blocks workers’ ability to move into the middle class.
The facts: Completely untrue. Organized labor likes to rely on two numbers — 31,000 workers who received back pay from NLRB and 42 cases of union coercion in 70 years — on both accounts they are wrong again. According to the NLRB, there were 31,358 employees who were awarded back pay in 2006 from NLRB. A vast majority (25,620) were the result of informal settlement agreements where no finding of coercion exists at all. Furthermore, labor has not provided a breakdown of how many of these instances actually were related to the organizing process or the secret ballot election process.
Additionally, that 42 number was taken by the AFL-CIO from testimony delivered by the HR Policy Association (a trade association) and then deliberated on until they found 42 instances where they were willing to agree that there was coercion and intimidation on the part of the union organizers. It is also interesting to note that this is not derived from an official government statistic, nor from NLRB.
23 minutes is more of their fuzzy math.
Straczewski comments…. This bill takes away their right to a private ballot, and it also takes away the right of the employer and the union to come to a collective agreement. This bill would basically get rid of that process and it would force the two parties to come to terms, and the employees would have no choice or no vote on the contract.
Herera: What about that, Beth?
Shulman: That’s just absolutely not true. Workers would have a right to choose, which way they want to go about forming a union. Right now we have majority sign-up, we just have employer veto over that process. This gives it back to workers. It’s their union, it’s their freedom of association, it should be in their corner.
But again, I think the most important part of this is to ensure that janitors and hotel workers, nursing home aides, workers out there that are trying to better their lives, that they have an easy access to joining a union. We shouldn’t make this hard.
The facts: What right to choose? Unions only need 51 percent of the workers’ signatures. Are they really going to ask 100 percent of the workforce to sign a card? Absolutely not, so where is the “free choice” of the worker who is not even approached to sign a card?
Again, even after this process, the union still has to hammer out a contract with the employer. Under H.R. 800, if this is the first contract, then the two sides have only 120 to come to agreement. After that time, the federal arbitration board will impose binding terms (wages and benefits, etc.) on private employers and their employees. Neither the union, nor the workers, nor the employer can get out of the contract. The workers are deprived of a vote on their contract.
Both the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court have said that secret ballot elections are far superior to signed authorization cards. They have also said that two private parties should never be compelled to agree.
Herera: O.K., Jason ….
Shulman: We’re the only country in the industrialized world that makes workers have to go through hurdle upon hurdle just to have freedom of association.
The facts: What hurdles? The process works and has worked for 70 years. Average election time: 38 days. More than 90 percent of NLRB elections occur within 56 days. By law, they must occur within 60 days. Labor unions prevail in approximately 55 percent of the elections held. In 2005, NLRB reports a “voter turnout” of 80 percent — that’s better than the general election.
During the “campaign period” before the vote, the employer must disclose a list of employees and their addresses to the union. If they do not, then the NLRB may throw out the results of the resulting election and recognize the union.
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