Card Check: Compromise is a Process, Not a Good In and Of Itself

By May 11, 2009Labor Unions

The Washington Post today takes an editorial shot at the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers for opposing any talk of legislative compromise in Congress over the Employee Free Choice Act.

From the lead editorial, “The Imperfect Union Bill”:

WE HAVE SAID before that the Employee Free Choice Act is a flawed solution to a real problem: unfair barriers in the way of union organizing. We have been critical of the labor movement for its reluctance to consider alternatives that could level the playing field between labor and management. So we have, we hope, some standing to criticize a leading management group for its absolutist stance against not only the Employee Free Choice Act as written but also against compromise proposals. Instead of engaging in a good-faith effort to fix the problem, the group, the Coalition for a Democratic Workforce, chooses to deny that there is a problem.

A few quick thoughts:

This is a classic example of Washington political thinking that elevates process over substance, viewing compromise and consensus as valuable in and of themselves. To the vast majority of NAM members, businesses small and large, the possibility of forced unionization and a government-imposed binding arbitration are matters of life and death. A “compromise” looks like, “Please, just kill us a little bit…later.”

And who is it exactly doing the “compromising” up on Capitol Hill? Senator Tom Harkin compromising with Sen. Arlen Specter? The AFL-CIO compromising with the Teamsters? Starbucks with Costco?

As for denying there isn’t a problem, here are the basic facts from the National Labor Relations Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

• Union membership is on the rise (400,000 new members last year)
• Unions are winning most of the elections (unions won 66.8 percent of all elections in 2008)
• Elections take place in a timely manner (94% within 56 days)

Organized labor does not win every union organizing election, and that’s “the problem” they want the Employee Free Choice Act to fix. But labor has never engaged in good faith discussion about the issue, starting with its decision to dishonestly represent the bill as “free choice.”

Given that the legislation is a raw power grab by organized labor, where’s there any room for compromise?

We close with these thoughts from a Democratic Senator known for his belief in good faith negotiations and willingness to broker compromise, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE):

You take away the arbitration issue, and you still have the “card check,” so that doesn’t work. You take away the ‘card check’ and you still have the arbitration problem. And if both go away, you’re left with nothing. It’s a fool’s errand to do this. I just don’t see an agreement happening.

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