South Dakota’s Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, has drawn great attention as a liberal Democrat who objects strenuously to the attack on privacy and freedom of association represented by the “card check” provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act. (See this Wall Street Journal column from August 2008.)
In today’s Journal, he analyzes and rejects the binding arbitration language, as well. From “The ‘Free Choice’ Act Is Anything But“:
In a contract negotiation, each party typically perceives the other as too demanding. But no one loses their right to contract willingly or suffers being forced to agree to anything. Employees can strike if they feel that they have been dealt with unfairly, but it is a costly option. Employers are free to reject labor demands they find to be too difficult to accept, but running a business without experienced employees is itself difficult. Both sides have an incentive to press their demands, but they also have compelling reasons not to press their demands too far. EFCA would disrupt that balance by enabling government-appointed lawyers to decide what they believe is fair or reasonable.
A federally appointed arbitrator cannot be expected to understand the nuances specific to each business dispute, the competitive market position of the business, or the plethora of other factors unique to each case. Yet fundamental decisions on wages and benefit costs, rules for promotions, or even rules for exiting an unprofitable line of business could fall to federal arbitrators under EFCA.
Many labor contracts can run over 100 pages with their requirements of each party. Compulsory arbitration is, in one sense, government dictating to employees what they will win or lose in the deal, with no opportunity to approve the “agreement.” Why should employees pay union dues to get such a contract?
Organized labor regards the right of the worker to withhold his labor as almost sacred, a core principle they fought to defend and write into law. And now labor’s leaders want to abandon that principle under the guise of “free choice.”
It’s hard to believe that the rank and file really want to surrender their rights just because labor bosses tell them to.
UPDATE (10:50 a.m.): More from Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute, former chief economist at the Department of Labor, “After Card Check, Don’t Forget Binding Arbitration.”
With just a few lines of legislative language, Congress would revoke for newly-organized firms the principle of free collective bargaining—that employers and unions may walk away from a contract they find unsatisfactory.
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