Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, today introduced the Senate companion to H.R. 800, the counterfactually named Employee Free Choice Act. Kennedy release here. The statement includes this familiar canard:
In 2005 alone, more than 30,000 workers were illegally fired or retaliated against for attempting to exercise their right to have a union in their workplace. Every 17 minutes, a worker is fired or punished in some illegal way for supporting a union. Unscrupulous employers routinely break the law to keep unions out—they intimidate employees, harass them, and discriminate against them. They shut down whole departments—or even entire plants—to avoid negotiating a union contract. It’s illegal and unacceptable, but it happens every day.
We again refer the reader to “The Truth About Improper Firings and Union Intimidation,” an issue paper by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation.
First, the claim that companies fire workers in one-quarter of organizing drives comes from a survey of union organizers, which is hardly an impartial source.
No less mistaken is the claim that “illegal firings and other discrimination against workers” occurred 31,358 times in 2005. The number itself comes from the 2005 annual report of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The report shows that the NLRB ordered employers to pay that many workers back pay in 2005, but the NLRB awards back pay to resolve many types of disputes, very few of which involve intimidation during organizing. For example, the NLRB orders companies to provide back pay if they have unilaterally changed a collective bargaining agreement. Asserting that all of these cases concern intimidation, fraud, or illegal firings during organizing campaigns is simply false.
Putting that number in context reveals the absurdity of the unions’ claim. About 149,000 workers were eligible to vote in union certification elections in 2005. If 31,000 cases of back pay resulted from employers illegally firing or coercing pro-union workers, then employers fired or coerced over one-fifth of all workers who voted on organizing that year, which is a far higher proportion than even unions assert.
Union activists and their Congressional allies play fast and loose with the facts, a sad practice that will no doubt continue. Notable, as well, in its absence from Kennedy’s statement is any mention of the means by which the bill would achieve “fairness,” i.e., the destruction of secret-ballot elections in the workplace. Seems relevant to the debate.
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