binding arbitration Archives - Shopfloor

Card Check: Union Leader Implies Lame-Duck Push for EFCA

By | General, Labor Unions | No Comments

It’s hard to imagine, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka continues to claim that there will be action on the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not clear he’s referring to Congressional action, but in an online chat Thursday, he used the phrase, “before the end of the year.” A reference to a lame-duck push?

In response to a question from Marti in California about the Employee Free Choice Act, Trumka said:

There is no question the Employee Free Choice Act has to become law and workers need it. EFCA is necessary so more people can get bargaining power and we can get fair share of  the economic pie.

The Republicans are locked in against but we have we have president who supports it along with vast majority of the House and Senate and the public… We’re working on it every day.. .Stay tuned because before the end of the year, you are going to hear something about the Employee Free Choice Act because we are working on it every day.

The comments suggest a question that should be posed to incumbents members of Congress running for re-election: “No matter what the outcome of the Nov. 2 election, will you commit to voting against the Employee Free Choice Act or any other similar expansion of labor union power in a lame-duck session of Congress?”

We add the qualifier “or any other similar expansion” because there may be an attempt to enact single elements from the Employee Free Choice Act that would give labor unions a free hand to force a union certification or favorable first contract (through binding arbitration).

Card Check, NLRB: At Berkeley, a Hearing on First Contracts

By | Education and Training, Labor Unions | No Comments

The House Education and Labor Committee has scheduled a field hearing next Friday in Berkeley, with a hearing title that raises suspicions that advocates of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) are looking for another way to sneak through provisions of the legislation. The hearing was called by Chairman George Miller (D-CA), chief sponsor of EFCA (H.R. 1409) in the House.

The hearing’s title: “Understanding Problems in First Contract Negotiations: Post-Doctoral Scholar Bargaining at the University of California

A central, anti-democratic provision of the Employee Free Choice Act is the imposition of binding arbitration in first-contract negotiations. Under Section 3 (see extended entry), a panel of government-appointed arbitrators forces an agreement onto an employer and employees if a first contract is not reached within 90 days of negotiations and 30 days of mediation. As Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School puts it, “[EFCA’s] compulsory arbitration structure introduces a partial but large-scale, covert government takeover of the private sector.”

And talking about “sneaking through,” here’s an unusual addition to the hearing notice: “Due to the off-site location of this hearing, there will be no webcast, videos or photos.”

There’s no lecture hall at Berkeley with video or Internet connections? Or space to take a photo? Ridiculous.

Another reason to pay attention to the hearing is its focus on union representation in the university setting. When President Obama made the recess appointments of Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board, speculation immediately started that the new, activist and pro-labor NLRB would find a way to reverse the board’s 2004 decision in the Brown University case (Brown University, 342 NLRB at 487), which held that graduate student teaching assistants could not unionize. But what about post-doc scholars?

The NLRB’s Chairman, Wilma Liebman, certainly anticipates the issue. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, “Faculty-Union Allies, Hopeful About Obama’s Labor Board, Hear From Its Leader“:

It’s only a matter of time before the National Labor Relations Board is faced with a challenge to a 2004 ruling that says graduate students at private institutions aren’t employees and therefore don’t have bargaining rights, its leader told attendees at a labor conference here on Monday.

“This is not an issue that we’ll bring up, but I have heard there are cases out there in the works,” said Wilma B. Liebman, the opening speaker at the conference, held at the City University of New York’s Baruch College.

So here it is, the issue being brought up, courtesy of the House Education and Labor Committee.


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Not Just a Campaign Issue, Card Check is a BAD BILL

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

To avoid falling into the bad, inside-the-Beltway habit of viewing all things through the lens of politics,  we stress that the Employee Free Choice Act is not just a campaign issue, but is also a disaster for employers and employees alike.

This letter in The Detroit News explains why the binding arbitration provisions – an element in any supposed legislative “compromise” — are economically damaging:

Secret ballot is best for union votes
Gregory Saltzman’s Feb. 18 column, “Arbitration solves labor strife,” fails to mention the most onerous provision of this bill, which is mandatory union recognition once a union gets 50 percent of employees to sign cards. The Employee Free Choice Act would take away employees’ democratic right to decide on a union in a secret ballot election. It is a fact that employees who sign a union card, usually in front of a union organizer, probably in the presence of fellow employees, will often change his or her mind in the privacy of the voting booth.

First-contract arbitration under the Employee Free Choice Act is another bad idea. This is known as interest arbitration and is rarely used except in situations where strikes cannot be tolerated, such as with police and firefighters unions.

The Employee Free Choice Act provides that if the parties fail to settle a first agreement within a certain amount of time, any outstanding issues are submitted to an arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, who would decide disputed issues and impose a final and binding decision on both parties for a two-year period.

Parties to first contracts could arbitrate their issues now, but rarely do, because they would be turning over their wages, benefits and working conditions to a third party who probably has little or no expertise in the parties’ business, no practical experience in their operations and, most important, will not have to live with the consequences of the decision.

The very important business of labor relations and bargaining is best left to the parties involved, no matter how imperfect the process may be.

James Wahlman , Troy

(Hat tip: The Truth about EFCA)

Card Check: But If This is the Proposal, We Say ‘NO!’

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

The Wall Street Journal editorialists consider the language a modified Employee Free Choice Act that Senator Specter claims will be the basis of legislation that could pass the Senate, judging by his comments to the AFL-CIO in Pittsburgh, that is. From “A Gift for Labor“:

In place of this proposal to automatically unionize if more than half the employees sign union cards, they are proposing an election within a week or so of a minority of employees petitioning for a union. This shotgun vote is intended to deny employees the kind of educated choice that comes with a proper discussion of the merits of unionization informed by both management and labor.

The new old “card check,” according to Mr. Specter, also gives unions unprecedented access to the workplace and meetings between employers and employees before a vote to unionize. Last we checked the Constitution, even in the age of Obama private companies haven’t signed away their property rights.

An equally problematic binding arbitration provision stays in. This idea would let a federal arbitrator impose a contract if the employer and a newly organized union aren’t able to agree within three months. In other words, a government-sponsored agent would decide what salaries and benefits management will have to pay its employees. Throw in the expanded access to company property, and this so-called compromise bill may be worse than the original.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ position is that the Employee Free Choice Act is at its heart a destructive, jobs-killing piece of legislation from which no compromise can be drawn. Senator Specter’s version proves the point.

Card Check: Sen. Arlen Specter Talks ‘Compromise,’ Arbitration

By | Labor Unions, Media Relations | No Comments

At today’s townhall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), responded to a questioner who objected to the Employee Free Choice Act. The Senator’s response:

You raised a question of Employee’s Choice. That bill is in a process of being negotiated. There will not be a timeline which will be so fast that people will not have an opportunity to understand what the issue is.

You comment about the secret ballot. I think we have to maintain the secret ballot, which you agree with. (Applause). We tried to work through the other facet of it, arbitration for last-best offer, but we’re….bearing in mind the concerns and worries that you raised.

Thereby confirming that final-offer arbitration remains the supposed point of “compromise.” (Background on arbitration from The Competitive Enterprise Institute and a recent AP story.) And we repeat the observation that Sen. Specter and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) are talking “compromise” only in the most narrow of senses, i.e., an agreement between the two men. A more accurate description is a “a version of the legislation that could reach 60 Senate votes.”

And, oh yes, it was a raucous, loud, combative townhall meeting. Shown on live national television.

To the media, townhall meetings are this year’s version of shark attacks. Looking back at the risible coverage of summer of the shark, we should now know that hamsters bite more often than constituents.

UPDATE (2:40 p.m.): In the Mid-Atlantic states, we also experienced The Summer of the Snakehead. It’s quieted down in Crofton, Md., since then.

UPDATE (2:50 p.m.): Granted, snakeheads have established themselves in the Potomac. The Washington Times recently had good column on catching and cooking them.

Card Check: If That Doesn’t Work, Try Binding Arbitration

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

From The Hill, “Dems warn Baucus with gavel threat“:

In an apparent warning to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), some liberal Democrats have suggested a secret-ballot vote every two years on whether or not to strip committee chairmen of their gavels.

Baucus, who is more conservative than most of the Democratic Conference, has frustrated many of his liberal colleagues by negotiating for weeks with Republicans over healthcare reform without producing a bill or even much detail about the policies he is considering.

“Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “If the ‘no’s win, [the chairman’s] out.

“I’ve heard it talked about before,” he added.

Senator Harkin is the chief Senate carrier of the Employee Free Choice Act, which eliminates secret ballots in the workplace during union representation elections.

In other speculation-rife speculation, here’s more speculation about Senate Majority Reid’s plans for the legislation. From The Examiner,Reid plan could force Card Check without compromise.” Reporter Kevin Mooney cites the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace — in which the National Association for Manufacturers is an active member — reacting to the casually sourced Roll Call article about the possibility of union-legislation being “railroaded” through the Senate.

“Forced card check coupled with the job-killing binding interest arbitration provision suggests that the EFCA still remains politically toxic, despite efforts to produce what appears to be a one-sided ‘compromise,’ ” said Brian Worth, chairman of the CDW. “Apparently ‘compromise’ means whatever Big Labor can get passed notwithstanding their ultimate plan for denying workers secret ballots.”

We tend to think an attempt to shove the Employee Free Choice Act through the Senate in a brutal power play would be even more politically toxic. So the Roll Call story was yet another trial balloon from labor, trying to identify some strategy that might work.

Card Check: ‘I Think I Can, I Think I Can.” Or Maybe Not…

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

So, just a day after Roll Call reported that Majority Leader Harry Reid planned to “railroad” a version of the Employee Free Choice Act through the Senate, we have Congress Daily reporting the legislation is on hold, maybe through this entire session.

Senate efforts to compromise on a watered-down version of the Employee Free Choice Act have been put firmly on the chamber’s back burner — perhaps for the rest of the year — as senators, aides and lobbyists focus on health care and other legislation, participants said.
“We’re not doing anything right now,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said of talks he has led among a group of Democrats since it became clear in late March that a more ambitious “card check” bill to help unions organize could not win 60 Senate votes.

So we have a “compromise” that’s not a compromise being rammed through one moment being returned to the back burner, but then heated up and shoved down Senators’ throats, depending on whether the playing field is level or not.

Depends on which gandydancer you’re talking to. Metaphorically speaking.

We tend to take this latest account seriously because the reporter spoke to Senator Harkin on the record and doesn’t seem to have been spun by labor sources. And if Senator Harkin wants to attribute the inaction on this ABSOLUTE MAJOR PRIORITY to the heavy schedule of other economic legislation, that’s fine.

But we’ll be watching the signals and listening for the blast of a railroad torpedo just in case.


And finally…

This is the July 16 NYT article that prompted so much reporting and commentary and blogging and speculation about the “card check” provisions being dropped. Just interesting to reread two weeks later.

Card Check: Machinations Upon Machinations

By | Labor Unions | One Comment

The flogging of the “Senate Dems drop card check” story to the New York Times certainly brought renewed attention to the Employee Free Choice Act’s political prospects, which was probably the goal of the labor lobbyist(s) who were pushing the news.  At least people are talking about the bill now instead of just assuming the whole thing is dead. Smart.

Binding arbitration is still to be included in the legislation, if we are to believe labor’s spin, along with quick “ambush elections” and limits on employers being able to express their views.

Some reactions…

Walter Olson, Point of Law, “EFCA ‘compromise’, the latest round“:

The miscellaneous provisions are probably the biggest political danger to bill opponents. Both card check and compulsory arbitration are relatively easily grasped as drastic changes in the existing labor-law regime for private workplaces, and both can be effectively criticized as curtailing worker choice (arbitration would impose new working conditions not just without management’s consent, but also without a vote by workers). On the other hand, proposals that can be presented as merely increasing penalties for violations tend to go down easy in our system, and many of the other ideas can be couched as if there were incremental adjustments in things like the speed or logistics of elections — even if their cumulative effect might prove drastic.

Wall Street Journal editorial, “The New Old ‘Card Check’“:

One proposal would slash the time for an organizing vote, requiring that it be held within five or 10 days after 30% of workers had signed cards asking for a union. The median time today is 38 days. Organizers want the rush because they know the more time workers have to learn about a union, the less they usually want one. Once employees hear the other side of the story, support dwindles.

This also explains a Big Labor demand to bar companies from requiring their workers to hear management’s side during a union campaign. Labor supporters say this creates a “captive audience,” but these meetings are one of management’s few opportunities to address workers, since companies are barred from the sort of outreach allowed to union organizers — such as visiting employees at home. At the same time, Senators want to give union organizers access to company property.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary, “Card Check Lite“:

Once again, we can only gape in awe at the misplaced priorities of certain Senate leaders. The economy is sputtering and we are bleeding jobs, but the Senate is dreaming up new ways to pummel employers. Surtaxes, energy taxes, mandatory arbitration, and on it goes. Quite a list. (Where do they think the jobs are going to come from?) If you wanted to make America an undesirable place to locate new businesses in or to expand your payroll, you’d be hard pressed to match the agenda coming out of Congress.

More good commentary and reviews at EFCAReport.com.

Card Check: A Manufacturer Asks, What About Our 140 Jobs?

By | Labor Unions | One Comment

From Dieter Weissenrieder, president of Weiss-Aug Co. Inc. in East Hanover, N.J., an op-ed in The Daily Record, “Employee Free Choice Act: Proposal would kill jobs“:

My metal stamping company in East Hanover faces many challenges to remain competitive in these tough economic times. The last thing we need is the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act. This bill is one of the most direct threats to manufacturers’ ability to compete globally and create jobs in New Jersey and across America. At its core, the EFCA is a power grab by labor leaders to increase union membership by radically overhauling our labor law system to tilt in their favor.

And his conclusion…

Manufacturers today operate amid complex and speedy global supply chains, facing enormous pressures to manage costs while innovating to create the next generation of product. The EFCA acknowledges none of these realities, instead offering a workplace with rigid work rules and adversarial employer-employee relationships.

Card Check: Or Better Termed, Federal Pay Determination?

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Mickey Kaus on the card check “compromise” being sold via the New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse, “The Feared Card Check ‘Compromise’ Is Here“:

Opponents may need to come up with a new name for the bill (though “card check” was working pretty well for them). How about “federal pay determination”?  Keep in mind that not only does the apparent “compromise” propose abandoning the hoary idea that wages should be set in the marketplace, it also abandons the New Deal’s substitute idea that wages should be set in labor contest where unions threaten to use their strike power and management threatens to survive a strike. Unions seem to have given up strikes. Instead they want to authorize an official–maybe even an actual federal bureaucrat–to simply swoop down and impose what would undoubtedly be a wage increase. That’s more akin to FDR’s notorious, failed National Recovery Act–except the NRA at least let industries set their own rigid wage scales.  …

Note also that the arbitration provisions give now-unorganized workers a new, powerful incentive to unionize: Vote for the union, wait a few months, and an arbitrator will fly in and give you a raise. No strike. No fuss. No muss. …

The biggest labor “reform” since the Wagner Act!