Tag: Barack Obama

Labor Department Regulatory Agenda is Not a Growth Agenda

President Barack Obama met with business leaders last week to discuss “a shared agenda focused on moving our economy forward that not only continues to grow the economy, but also ensures America is competing and leading in the world.” He then later met with labor union leaders in which the President “reinforced the essential role the union movement plays in growing the economy, creating good jobs on Main Street, and keeping America competitive.”

It appears that the President is rightfully focused on job creation and enhancing our nation’s economic competitiveness.

We looked forward to going through the Department of Labor’s Fall 2010 regulatory agenda (on the last day of the season!) today to learn how the Labor Department was going to achieve the goal of achieving “Good Jobs for Everyone.” Now that’s it’s here, most of what we see is focused on increasing regulations on employers and achieving goals that were unable to be done legislatively.

Specifically the agenda includes:

  • A new regulatory proposal that would require companies to disclose to both independent contractors and employees alike a description of their status as either an employee or independent contractor. While few details are offered on this expected regulatory endeavor it appears to place new requirements on employers to disseminate information to employees. This regulation appears to be very similar to legislation, the Employee Misclassification Prevention Act, offered by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
  • Information on proposals expected from the Office of Labor Management Standards that would require employers to disclose the details of when they engage in “persuader activities” and plans to “reconsider” (i.e. limit) the types of efforts engaged by employers to comply with labor laws that are not currently required to be disclosed. Note: the administration previously removed a set of disclosure requirements for union organizations citing the burden they posed for labor leaders to comply.
  • An update on OSHA’s efforts to mandate an expansive safety and health program standard through what has been called the “Injury and Illness Prevention Program”
  • An indication that OSHA intends to finalizing their proposed rulemaking to allow citations to be issued for certain small businesses that wish to work proactively with the agency to ensure that they are compliant with existing OSHA standards and regulations – a move that would deter participation in a very effective program.

As we’ve stated here numerous times: more regulations from the Executive Branch produce a lot of uncertainty for employers, to whom unnecessary costs represent an obstacle to economic growth.

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Card Check: Labor Day Round Up

As expected there was a flurry of union activity throughout the weekend, where many aspects of organized labor’s legislative priorities were discussed. As this blog noted, the President headed to an AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati to stump for health care. However, while at the picnic, he gave a fleeting reference to big labor’s highest legislative priority: the job-killing Employee Free Choice Act.

Vice President Biden and Labor Secretary Solis offered support for the legislation at separate events in Pittsburgh and Chicago respectively.

Labor Day pronouncements aside, it’s been a rough year for the labor movement. According to a recent Gallup poll less than half of Americans approve of today’s labor movement. Labor has failed to convince enough Senators to pass their job-killing legislative brass-ring – card check legislation. A column in the Washington Post recently provided an overview of these setbacks. However, this particular piece came from the perspective that our current labor law system is unbalanced – a point that we have disputed and corrected numerous times on this blog.

It appears that organized labor is increasingly frustrated with this lack of action on card check, and they’re failing to speak with a unified voice, according to New York Times articles over the weekend. One piece quotes the likely new head of the AFL-CIO as saying that the President gets a “gets an A for effort, and an incomplete for results.” Despite spending $450 million dollars to elect the current administration, union bosses are facing a considerable amount of friction over the lack of progress. These concerns will likely be addressed when the President speaks at the AFL-CIO’s annual convention in Pittsburgh next week.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell continued to express his strong opposition to the legislation as a step in the wrong direction and merely an attempt for unions bolster their membership. He also reiterated that every Senate Republican is firm in their opposition to the EFCA.

The NAM highlighted the disconnect between the goals of union bosses and the needs of economy to recover in our annual Labor Day Report. Additionally, we’ve continued to call on members of the Senate to oppose the card check bill in any form with a campaign lead by our Labor Policy Institute in advance of the Labor Day weekend.

Bret Jacobson provides a good wrap up of other noteworthy pieces related to the EFCA at The Truth About EFCA blog.

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President Obama in Michigan, Talking about the Economy

News accounts report that President Obama will deliver a speech in Warren, Mich., Tuesday on the economy. Only a passing reference at the White House website, a June announcement of the visit, then billed as a “town hall.”

Commentary, analysis and political speculation from The Prowler columnist at The American Spectator:

Several weeks ago, it was announced that tomorrow the president would attend a town hall in Warren, Michigan, a Macomb County suburb of Detroit. Yesterday, however, the White House announced that Obama would not take questions from a community angry over his stimulus plans and auto bailout and where unemployment is higher than the national average of about 10 percent. Instead Obama will make a prepared speech, expected to focus, White House sources said, on education and job retraining programs.

Apparently some members of the public, including Republicans and union members, were going to attempt to ask questions. In the interest of message control, more speechifying, especially on health care.

Reuters is still calling the event a “town hall,” however:

He takes his effort to win public backing for his plan to a town hall meeting in Warren, Michigan, on Tuesday, a state where closed factories and the highest unemployment rate in the country have left many without private health insurance and struggling to pay healthcare bills.

UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Schedules are fluid, obviously. And not necessarily transparent. Today, for example:

The president will see labor leaders at 1:15 p.m., the Columbus Crew soccer team at 2:20 p.m. and deliver remarks at an Urban and Metropolitan Policy Roundtable at 4 p.m. Not on the daily lineup is his 3 p.m. meeting with the influential group of Jewish leaders, coming in the wake of Obama’s June 4 demand in Cairo for Israel to stop expansion of West Bank settlements.

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Card Check: +/- 600,000

Yesterday President Barack Obama announced at a Cabinet meeting that he plans to accelerate spending for the $787 billion stimulus plan to create or save 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days. However, it is a bit concerning the President has also previously expressed support for the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act that will destroy 600,000 jobs in the first year after enactment. One step forward, one step back.

A recent academic study by Dr. Layne-Ferrar shows that if union leaders’ expectations of increasing union membership by 1.5 million members in the year after EFCA passage are correct, 600,000 jobs will be lost.

It makes no sense that at the same that Congress and the Administration express a commitment to save and create jobs, they’ll pledge support for a bill that will kill just as many.

UPDATE (12:20 p.m.): More from The Truth About EFCA blog, “Card Check Cost: $1.75 Billion (or More!)

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Card Check: Obama Supporters Are Opposed

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Miami today, following up on Tuesday’s playing of President Obama’s two-week old recorded video message. President Obama just made a passing reference to the Employee Free Choice Act. We’ll see if the Vice President gives it more attention.

In saluting organized labor’s No. 1 legislative priority, the President and Vice President might also want to remember that the public – including Obama supporters – overwhelmingly opposes the Employee Free Choice Act. Recent polling performed by McLaughlin and Associates showed that 73% of Obama voters are opposed to EFCA and 86% of Obama voters believe that a worker’s vote should be kept private in a union organizing election.  81% of these same Obama supporters believe that Congress should focus on other issues like jobs and health care before dealing with EFCA.

In fact, an Obama supporter just wrote a strongly worded letter to the editor in a Pennsylvania newspaper highlighting his concerns by asserting:

If workers decide to unionize, that is their right. The laws can be modified to make it easier to unionize. But, the secret ballot should never be sacrificed! If we are to remain the greatest and the most productive country in the world, the rights of American workers must continue to include the secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize.

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More on Coal, Bankrupt and Otherwise

Lots of reaction to the remarks by Senator Barack Obama to the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board in January saying that the coal industry and utilities could never build a new coal-fired power plant because his Administration’s policies would “bankrupt” them.

The key quote from Sen. Obama:

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in wind, solar, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I have said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

The reaction from Gov. Palin, campaigning in Marietta, Ohio.

Now a couple points on this: One is that here again, why is the audio tape just now surfacing? This interview was given to San Francisco folks many, many months ago. You should have known about this, so that you would have better decision-making information as you go into the voting booth.

The value of the information is unquestionable, but the interview had been on the Chronicle’s SFGate website since January, which hardly seems like suppression. Instead, it appears that the Chronicle’s reporters and editors missed the news. Hardly a surprise: In California, killing off productive sectors of the economy is considered sport. They probably just didn’t recognize that Senator Obama’s position was all that unusual. Candidates and Congress demonize and single out the oil industry for punitive tax and regulatory policies, what makes coal that special?

On the other hand, you would have expected someone from the RNC or McCain campaign to listen to the interview at some point and identify the issue, perhaps bringing it up in a debate or a campaign ad. We used to hear about something called “opposition research.” Apparently it’s gone out of fashion.

The Obama campaign responded, as reported in the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail, calling the remarks “wildly edited” to take them out of context. Really? “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them…” From a campaign statement:

The point Obama is making is that we need to transition from coal-burning power plants built with old technology to plants built with advanced technologies-and that is exactly the action that will be incentivized under a cap-and-trade program.

So that’s what’s happening to all those banks and investment houses in the financial crisis. They’re “incentivizing” themselves.

(continue reading…)

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Card Check: What’s In Store

Forecasting a possible labor agenda under an Obama Administration the WSJ outlines today that includes many familiar items — the Employee Free Choice Act — and some not so familiar, including the RESPECT Act, as well some lesser known provisions within the card check bill such as language to impose binding arbitration for first contracts. The column’s summary of the mandatory arbitration provisions is the most concise argument against the card-check bill that’s out there.

 

Another labor-friendly provision of the Employee Free Choice Act is mandatory arbitration. Under current law, labor and management are required to bargain in good faith but aren’t obliged to reach an agreement. Under Mr. Obama’s proposal, if the parties can’t settle on a contract within 120 days, the dispute goes to an arbitration panel which can impose a contract that is binding for two years.

 

As a practical matter, contracts typically involve dozens of provisions dealing with wages as well as seniority, grievances, overtime, transfers and promotions. Rarely is this accomplished in four months. The provision would notably shift bargaining power to unions, which would have an incentive to run out the 120-day clock and let an arbitrator impose a contract that is bound to include much of what unions demand.

 

Other points included in the column:

 

  • Senator Obama’s support for the RESPECT Act. This seemingly innocuous bill would drastically amend the National Labor Relations Act to change the legal definition of a supervisor. The result would place many supervisors in the same bargaining unit as their subordinates. As clear conflict of interest;
  • The Senator would bar companies from replacing striking workers; 
  • Sen. Obama’s plans would also force state and local governments to recognize union leaders as the exclusive bargaining agent for first responders instead of allowing these important public servants to negotiate directly with their employers.
  • Additionally, the column states that Sen. Obama is against states’ rights to pass Right to Work laws that protect employees that refuse to join a union or pay union dues.

 

In other related news, House Republican Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) opines in Townhall.com other plans to implement big labor’s agenda. His piece focuses on the impact of EFCA and Sen. Obama’s position on the bill. Boehner speculates that if EFCA passes “With the stroke of a pen, a time-honored right [to secret ballot union elections] would be signed away into the pages of history.

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Ledbetter Bill: Setting the Record Straight

Last night during the final Presidential debate you may have heard the reference to a little known piece of legislation called the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In responding to a question on abortion issues and judges, Senator Barack Obama briefly discussed the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber and the legislation that was introduced days after the decision.

In the Ledbetter Decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed current law by confirming prior Court decisions to uphold time limits in filing discrimination charges. This timely filing of charges is important to promptly investigate real instances of unlawful discrimination in the workplace.

Senator Obama references efforts to “overturn” the decision in the Senate, referring to the legislation introduced as “an effort to provide better guidance to the courts.”

In reality the scope of bill that was considered in the Senate, commonly referred to as the ‘Ledbetter Bill’, goes far beyond the issues raised in the Ledbetter decision and removes an important incentive to prompt identification and resolution of potential discrimination claims.

Although, Senator McCain didn’t fully respond to Senator Obama’s points on this issue, he was correct when he explained that the Ledbetter Bill was a “trial lawyer’s dream.”

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Card Check: Anything But Free Choice

Yesterday, Former Democratic Presidential Candidate, Senator and brave World War II B-24 pilot, George McGovern was interviewed on Fox News to discuss the card check bill. Senator McGovern defended the current secret ballot process for deciding labor union representation, but insisted that doing away with this process (as is the case under a card check scheme) is simply not the American way. An excerpt of the interview is below:

JON SCOTT (Fox News): Barack Obama’s supports this plan. He is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. Have you spoken to him?

 

George McGovern: I support Barack Obama. everybody knows that. I have gone public about it. But when it comes time to vote, I do not want to have to do that by signing a card that someone hands me publicly where everyone would know what I did in terms of my vote. I want that to be in private and I think that workers should hang on to the private secret polling place which they are now guaranteed but would not be guaranteed under this so-called free choice system. It is not a free choice if you have somebody pressing you to sign a card if you do it without the privacy of the polling place.

Full transcript here.

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Card Check: More Attention on the Presidential Campaign Trail

To both their credit, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have both been very clear about their positions on the Employee Free Choice Act, the card-check legislation that would eliminate secret ballots in workplace elections over union representation. But it wasn’t until just this week that we saw much media coverage of their stated views on the issue, stated at public events, that is.

Obama is a cosponsor who voted for cloture on H.R. 800, i.e., to move the bill ahead in the Senate. McCain is an opponent and voted no.

Senator McCain in Virginia Beach, Virginia yesterday highlighted Senator Obama’s position on card check in his speech. McCain said that along with Congressional leadership Senator Obama is planning to “…take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections…” CNN even did a fact check on this sound bite and confirmed what the bill will do, along with the positions and previous votes of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates.

In case Senator Obama’s position isn’t clear enough, here is a clip of his comments on the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act last year before the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

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