Card Check: The Rest of the Labor Agenda

By March 1, 2009General

Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao spoke Saturday morning at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference, a prime slot in a morning lineup following Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Surprisingly, Chao spent little time on the Employee Free Choice Act, perhaps figuring that attendees were already familiar with this hot-button issue. Instead, after brief comments on EFCA, she covered the rest of the political agenda she says is being pushed by organized labor, Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration. Excerpt:

And another push is to empower “mini-unions.” Have you heard about mini-unions? This is the push to have the National Labor Relations Board recognize tiny cells of workers, who don’t represent a majority of any bargaining unit, but can recognition to demand recognition and force employers to bargain on wages and benefits.

Another initiative is resurrecting the $8 billion ergonomics regulation. Ergonomic inspections and enforcement can be expected to ramp up and target health care, hospitality, food services, transportation, construction, manufacturing, clerical support functions.

And, there would likely be an adoption of a private right of action to sue employees.

We expect also to see a ratcheting up of OSHA regulations, wage and hour employment standards enforcement, not to protect workers, but to harass employers, to soften them up for organizing campaigns. There are also proposals to hold employers personally and criminal liable for OSHA violations.

Interesting that she mentioned the “mini-unions,” which is a reference to “minority bargaining” — the recognition of smaller bargaining units even though the entire workplace might not be unionized. We highlighted the issue in this post from August 2007:

Michael Fox of Ogletree-Deakins, blogging at Employerslawyer, provides lots of background and useful links. Fox practices in Texas and he obviously has some familiarity with the SMU professor emeritus, Charlie Morris, who propounds the theory that the 1935 National Labor Relations Act requires employers to negotiate with even a minority within a bargaining unit. (Morris’ book is “The Blue Eagle at Work: Reclaiming Democratic Rights in the American Workplace” — Is this the full text via Google? So that’s what all the talk about Google’s attack on copyrights is about.)

Fox concludes:

The general consensus, which I share, is that this is a non-starter with the current NLRB, but is another agenda item if the political winds in Washington should shift. That agenda is beginning to grow, so much so that it probably merits its own category, the 2009 agenda. The 2009 agenda? Sigh…He’s surely right. And it’s looking like a pretty radical agenda.

Well, that was prescient. Alas.

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