Card Check: Binding Arbitration Invites Trouble

By April 29, 2007Labor Unions

More excellent work comes from the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk on the spuriously named Employee Free Choice Act. While most attention has gone toward the bill’s anti-democratic provisions, i.e., the elimination of employee secret-ballot elections during organizing campaigns, the bill’s requirement for binding arbitration also devastates free association and employee choice. In his latest white paper, “Binding Arbitration Could Force Workers into Underfunded Pension,” Sherk argues that union leaders would be motivated by the desire to bringing new employees — i.e., additional cash flow — into underfunded multiemployer pension funds.

Congress should reject the idea of forcing workers into binding arbitration because it would put millions of American’s retirement security at risk. Unaccountable government arbitrators could force newly organized workers into severely underfunded multiemployer pension plans. Employers’ retirement contributions would shore up union finances, rather than provide for their workers’ retirements. It is understandable that unions support binding arbitration, but Congress should not give into their demands.

As New York attorney Seth Borden notes, the Employee Free Choice Act would seem to be a good topic to explore with Democratic presidential candidates, who have all endorsed the legislation, but the issue did not arise during last week’s debate.

Indeed, advocates actively avoid addressing the bill’s antidemocratic substance. Take a look at the argument in this L.A. Times op-ed by Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara.

(If) a Democrat is elected the next president and signs the bill, the first progressive reform of U.S. labor law in decades may give trade unionists a real shot at organizing millions of workers now consigned to union-free purgatory. The act would greatly diminish opportunities for managerial intimidation during organizing campaigns by allowing workers to join a union simply by signing a card. And the act would impose stiff financial penalties on anti-union employers who break the law. This “card check,” as it is known, may be a viable alternative to the employer-dominated elections currently conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

But Lichtenstein doesn’t say what the bill does away with, does he? No mention of the loss of secret-ballot elections, insulated from direct coercion. And why is that?

According to a new poll reported by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, nine out of 10 union employees want to protect the private ballot election and 80 percent of union households oppose this legislation.

That’s from Alvin M. Bargas, president of the Pelican Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., in Louisiana.

Good rule of thumb: Legislation warrants suspicion when its supporters don’t want to talk about it in honest, open terms.

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