Tag: card check

President Reaffirms ‘Plan B’ on Card Check

President Obama met with a family in Fairfax, Va., this afternoon to help sell his economic message, and in a follow-up discussion, he was asked a question about the long-pending Employee Free Choice Act, i.e., “card check.” His response reprised remarks in August when he told the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council that, while his administration will keep “fighting” to pass the bill in the Senate, he has already begun effecting the legislation’s goals through executive agencies and rulemaking, including action by the National Labor Relations Board.

The President’s remarks today again confirm what we’ve forecast for quite some time now: Passing the card check bill has become so difficult that so union leaders and their allies now plan to achieve their goals through executive branch actions. If Congress has to be replaced at the policymaking branch of government, so be it.

We’ll post the transcript of his remarks when it becomes available.

UPDATE: (9/14/10 1:40pm)

The White House has released the transcript of the President’s remarks, which are available here. Here is an excerpt from his response to the question on the status of the Employee Free Choice Act (emphasis ours):

Frankly, we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. So the opportunity to actually get this passed right now is not real high. What we’ve done instead is try to do as much as we can administratively to make sure that it’s easier for unions to operate and that they’re not being placed at an unfair disadvantage.

The Wall Street Journal recognizes in an editorial today that by failing to enact card check through Congress, labor leaders and their allies that include NLRB Board Member Craig Becker, are seeking to use executive branch resources to give labor leaders the type of labor law changes they seek. Click here  for the editorial and see below for an excerpt:

As Big Labor has realized it won’t get “card check” legislation through Congress, it is turning to its secret weapon inside the Obama Administration—labor lawyer Craig Becker. And as many Senators feared when he was nominated, Mr. Becker is using his position on the National Labor Relations Board to bypass the will of Congress.

President Obama gave Mr. Becker a recess appointment in March after Senate Democrats refused to confirm him to the NLRB, the agency charged with fairly overseeing union elections. As a top lawyer for the Service Employees International Union, Mr. Becker had suggested that the NLRB has the legal authority to impose card check—which eliminates secret ballots in union elections—without the approval of Congress. And lo, at the end of August the NLRB dropped the bombshell, when, in a 3-2 decision, it decided to revisit its important 2007 Dana Corp. ruling.

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Labor Day: Competitiveness IS Pro-Worker

August unemployment figures will be released Friday, with the expected 9.5 or 9.6 percent national jobless rate punctuating the importance of jobs and the economy just in time for the Labor Day holiday. Yet, in attempting to shape the Labor Day news coverage, the Obama Administration is promoting its successes (such as they are) in having government direct economic activity, while organized labor is just calling for more political activism.

They’re both missing the mark: What’s needed to encourage jobs growth are policies that make the United States more globally competitive while ending the uncertainty that keeps employers from hiring more workers. The NAM’s recent “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America” laid out those necessary policies, and our new “Labor Day 2010” report put them in context of employment and the economy. These are substantive documents, if we do say so ourselves.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis issued a statement via video that talks about jobs, but mostly offers examples of government intervention rather than a clear strategy for job creation. The statement will be even more underwhelming when the Bureau of Labor statistics announces the unemployment tomorrow.

Meanwhile, labor leaders are using the week to issue a political call to action, urging union members to mobilize in advance of the midterm elections. Union bosses are rightfully nervous that their allies in Washington  – those who have embraced labor’s anti-competitive program — are facing serious threats to their re-elections. Materials distributed by the AFL-CIO again make vague statements of support for anti-worker proposals like the Employee Free Choice Act.

We hope that all policymakers and candidates take the opportunity this Labor Day weekend to not only read the NAM’s Labor Day Report but also declare their opposition to card check legislation in any form. For jobs and the American worker, it’s time to focus on competitiveness, not proposals that would only worsen employer-employee relations.

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‘Weak’ U.S. Labor Laws are a Human Rights Violation?

The U.S. Department of State last week submitted its first-ever report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on conditions in the United States, “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review.” (News release, report.) We’re not so great, really, the State Department seemed to be saying.

News coverage centered on the report’s inclusion of Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law as an affront to human rights, a violation the Obama Administration was addressing through court action. As Politico reported, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the criticism of the state’s law “downright offensive.”

The State Department report also suggests that labor policy is an area where the United States falls short:

Freedom of association also protects workers and their right to organize. The labor movement in the United States has a rich history, and the right to organize and bargain collectively under the protection of the law is the bedrock upon which workers are able to form or join a labor union. Workers regularly use legal mechanisms to address complaints such as threats, discharges, interrogations, surveillance, and wages-and-benefits cuts for supporting a union. These legal regimes are continuously assessed and evolving in order to keep pace with a modern work environment. Our UPR consultations included workers from a variety of sectors, including domestic workers who spoke about the challenges they face in organizing effectively. Currently there are several bills in our Congress that seek to strengthen workers’ rights—ensuring that workers can continue to associate freely, organize, and practice collective bargaining as the U.S. economy continues to change.

Our emphasis. If the legislation is needed to “strengthen workers’ rights,” the implication is that U.S. labor laws are weak and these rights are not adequately protected.  Those claims — commonly made by organized labor and other advocates of the Employee Free Choice Act — are not founded in fact:

In 2009, labor unions won 68.5 percent of representation elections. Furthermore, 95 percent of all elections are conducted within 56 days of the filing of a petition by the union, with a median of 38 days.

But the report eschews fact-based analysis to base its claim for legitimacy on “civil society” consultations, a series of hearings around the nation dominated by aggrieved activists, interest groups and people with an an axe to grind.

(continue reading…)

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Changes at the NLRB – What Lies Ahead?

Today is NLRB Board Member Peter Schaumber’s last day at the Agency, as his second term has expired. Mr. Schaumber has been a member of the Board since 2002 and has served there through many trying times. As a result of political gridlock blocking the confirmation of additional members, he served as one of only two members of the NLRB for over two years from December 2007 – March 2010. His departure creates a new dynamic on the Board. Its membership will drop to only three confirmed members plus Craig Becker, who was recess appointed by President Obama earlier this year despite bipartisan opposition in the U.S. Senate. After today, the Board will have three Democrats, one Republican and a vacancy in the important general counsel position.

While many folks may not be familiar with the day-to-day workings of the NLRB, manufacturers are certainly watching it closely. Efforts to pass the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) through Congress have proven to be difficult for labor leaders and their allies in Washington, whose attention now turns to enacting the goals of the legislation through NLRB actions. President Obama recently addressed the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council, highlighting his efforts to appoint members to the Board that will effectuate the labor law changes that labor leaders seek.

We expect President Obama to announce soon his nominee for Schaumber’s post and the general counsel post. We hope that the nominee will uphold the principles of fairness and balance that have guided the Agency for the past 75 years. We urge all Board members to reject efforts to implement the goals of the EFCA by dutifully adhering to the sound administration of the National Labor Relations Act to promote positive relations among employees and employers. For now, we wish Peter Schaumber the best of luck as he leaves government service and await the announcement of who the President will nominate to replace him.

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The Priority is Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. That and Limiting Political Speech

We’re struggling to make the connection: Passage of the DISCLOSE Act will create jobs, how exactly?

From Hotline on Call, “DISCLOSE Act Will Get Second Look”:

Senate Dems plan to bring up a campaign finance measure once again, according to the bill’s supporters who hope to win cloture by wooing key GOP senators.

The DISCLOSE Act, which could not clear Senate hurdles when it came up just before the Aug. recess, will head back to the floor for a vote when the Senate returns next month, according to spokespeople for Senate Maj. Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the bill’s lead sponsor.

The DISCLOSE Act is to free speech as the Employee Free Choice Act is to freedom of association.

That is, antithetical.

On July 27, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on S.3628, the DISCLOSE Act, by a vote of 57-41. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no in order to retain his parliamentary ability to bring the measure back up.

To again quote from the National Association of Manufacturers’ “Key Vote” letter in opposition to the bill:

Put simply, this bill threatens First Amendment freedoms and is a direct assault on the U.S. Constitution. Its purpose is to hinder the ability of organizations, including associations such as the NAM, to give a voice to their members’ views and priorities. The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has recognized that voluntary associations are key participants in the public debate, and that government’s attempts to curb participation in associations in order to stifle their voice in the public debate violate the First Amendment. There need be no further discussion on whether First Amendment freedoms should apply to some and not to others.

(Hat tip: Center for Competitive Politics, which posts, “DISCLOSE back from the dead?”

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Card Check and the Colorado Senate Race

The Employee Free Choice Act played a much smaller role in the Senate Democratic primary in Colorado than it did in the Arkansas primary, or so it seems to us (having followed the races from afar).

Organized labor wanted to punish Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) for her criticisms of union-backed policies like the Employee Free Choice Act, but she handily defeated their favored candidate, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. In Colorado, both the incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (appointed in January 2009) and his challenger, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, had their labor support.

Still, Romanoff endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act, while Bennet avoided taking a position on the anti-democratic legislation, labor’s No. 1 priority. Most notably, Bennet did not cosponsor the bill, S. 560, in the U.S. Senate.

And in the end, Bennet won with a healthy margin of victory, 54-46 percent.

Bennet will face Ken Buck, Weld County district attorney, who defeated former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, 51.5-48.4 percent in the Republican primary. He opposes the Employee Free Choice Act in clear terms.

Here’s how Buck responded to a Denver Post candidates’ survey question on the issue:

Ken Buck: EFCA seeks to undermine the privacy of voting in unionizing elections. By implementing a “card check” system, EFCA would undermine individuals the right to cast a private ballot. Citizens of our country should have the freedom to vote how they want without the fear of retribution. EFCA also requires mandatory arbitration. This requirement inhibits the union employees’ and employers’ ability to negotiate. The inclusion of a third party in such conflict complicates and undermines the process.

We would expect the Employee Free Choice Act to be an issue in the general election, with voters demanding that Sen. Bennet address his support or opposition to the bill with more specificity.

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Card Check: AFL-CIO’s Trumka Says Employee Free Choice Act Will Come Up

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, was on the CSPAN “Newsmakers” show this morning. Asked whether the Employee Free Choice Act will be considered in Congress this year, Trumka said: “I think you’ll see the Employee Free Choice Act come up again. I think you’ll see it probably before the end of the year.”

Before the elections or in a lameduck session? Trumka: “Either one.”

The reason the Employee Free Choice Act has not passed Congress is because 40 Senate Republicans have blocked it, he said.

Oh, pshaw, Trumka. The reason EFCA has not passed is because the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to what the bill would do, opponents have made an effective case that “card check” and forced unionization are antithetical to democratic principles and economic growth. The legislation is extraordinarily unpopular, which is why key Senate Democrats joined Republicans in preventing the bill’s consideration on the floor this Congress.

If it were popular, the President would have already signed the Employee Free Choice Act into law instead of planning to put its provisions into effect through Executive Orders, presidential nominations, and regulatory enactments. (See Shopfloor post, “If EFCA Won’t Pass the Senate, We’ll Turn to Federal Labor Boards.

Trumka also continued pounding the table for more federal stimulus spending, dismissing concerns about the federal deficit, saying we have a jobs crisis in this country, not a deficit crisis. (UPDATE, 10:58 a.m.: Here’s the exact quote: “We have a job crisis right now, we don’t have a debt crisis right now. The only thing that can possibly make this recession, and this recovery from not stalling and going back into recession is if government continues to do some stimulus spending. And unfortunately, the states aren’t in a position to do that, so it’s going to take aid from the federal government.”)

CSPAN Radio will re-run the interview, about 30 minutes worth, at 6 p.m. Eastern.

UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): An interviewer asks, well, if the Employee Free Choice is so popular, and Democrats control the House and Senate, why haven’t the Democrats brought it to the floor for a vote? Trumka:

The President supports it, the vice president supports it, a vast majority of the House support it, a vast majority of the Senate report [sic] it, and like a hundred and some other bills in this country, 40 Republicans said we’re saying no to everything, and so they’ve stopped it.

It has come to the House and the Senate, remember? It passed by a large majority in the House. It’s been in the Senate where 40 Republicans have said no, just like they’ve said no to extensions of unemployment benefits, to help for state and local government, they’ve said no to everything. It doesn’t surprise us they’ve said no.

UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): Let’s be more accurate about the recent legislative history of the Employee Free Choice Act. In the 110th Congress, 2007-2008, H.R. 800 was introduced on Feb. 5, 2007. It passed the House on March 1, 2007. In the U.S. Senate, the bill failed to achieve cloture on June 26, 2007, with a vote of 51-48, short of the 60 votes needed. The only Republican to vote for cloture was Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylania, who subsequently became a Democrat (and who lost his party primary this spring). Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) was absent.

In the current 111th Congress, H.R. 1409 was introduced in the House on April 29, 2009, referred to committee, with no subsequent action. In the Senate, S. 560 was introduced on March 10, 2009 and referred to committee, with no subsequent action. From July (Sen. Franken’s swearing in) to December 2010 (Sen. Scott Brown’s arrival) the Democrats enjoyed a 60-vote majority in the Senate — enough to invoke cloture — but leadership chose not to pursue a vote because several members of the caucus would have voted no.

The portion of the interview concerning the Employee Free Choice Act is here as an .mp3 file. The host is Bill Scanlan and the interlocutors are David Catanese of Politico.com and Victoria McGrane of Dow-Jones.

Edited and updated for clarity, style.

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Card Check, the AFL-CIO, and President Obama’s Remarks

We couldn’t have said it better,” one of the AFL-CIO’s bloggers posted about President Obama’s answer to the question posed to President Obama on Wednesday by union President Richard Trumka. Or differently, one supposes.

The NAM’s Keith Smith reacted to the President’s remarks in a Shopfloor post yesterday, “If EFCA Won’t Pass the Senate, We’ll Turn to Federal Labor Boards.” The Bloomberg story, “Obama Tells Labor Leaders He’ll Pursue Union-Friendly Agenda,” reported the NAM’s objections to the strategy of using Executive Branch agencies to push through labor’s policy priorities that could not make it through Congress.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reports on other business groups disturbed by President’s appeals and alliance with Big Labor. From “Obama Seeks to Reassure Labor of Support“:

Glenn Spencer, an executive director with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, challenged Mr. Obama’s continued support of the Employee Free Choice Act. “We welcome the president’s call to rebuild our economy,” said Mr. Spencer, but “imposing government-dictated union contracts on employers won’t help.” He added that “overbearing regulations” from the Department of Labor or “a slanted” NLRB would only discourage America’s job creators from putting people back to work.

And Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute observed, “Worse yet, Obama supports going around the legislative branch and using unelected members of regulatory agencies to enact Big Labor’s agenda of forced unionization.”

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If EFCA Won’t Pass the Senate, We’ll Turn to Federal Labor Boards

In remarks to the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council today President Obama again reiterated the Administration’s commitment to seek passage of the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act. The President told the assembled group of labor union officials:

Getting EFCA through the Senate is gonna be tough, but we’re going to keep on pushing.

President quickly followed that statement up affirming the Administration’s plans to use federal regulatory agencies to implement labor’s agenda. The President said officials have already made numerous policies changes through pro-union executive orders and appointments at both the National Mediation Board and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The President said:

My administration has consistently implemented not just legislative strategies but also where we have the power through executive orders to make sure that those basic values are reflected.

He said that the fight for EFCA in the Senate will be tough but “Our work doesn’t stop there. There is a reason why we nominated people the National Mediation Board.” He said “we’re going to make sure that the National Labor Relations Board is restored…”

The President is conceding what we (employers) have consistently warned against: In failing to push through Congress the policies demanded by labor like card check legislation, he is instead using the Executive Branch and regulatory agencies to achieve the same policy end. The outcome will be a system that increases labor-management conflict, undermines the dynamic labor marketplace, and adds huge new costs to U.S. businesses struggling to create jobs and stay competitive in the global economy.

But in doing so, the President circumvents Congress and, we contend, the majority of the American people who do not embrace an economy dominated by labor.

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Card Check: Sen. Hatch Warns that NLRB Has Plans

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) spoke on a conference call with bloggers today, primarily on the topic of the tax increases that will hit on Jan. 1 unless Congress extends the lower rates enacted in 2001 and 2003. Among other issues that arose were the Employee Free Choice Act, the potential of a lameduck session of Congress, and President Obama’s recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Sen. Hatch noted that President Obama made the recess appointment before there had even been a committee hearing on Berwick’s nomination, and then, after the appointment, nominated Berwick again. Hatch obviously saw a similarity with the handling of the nomination and subsequent recess appointment of Craig Becker, an SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel, to the National Labor Relations Board. Sen. Hatch:

They’ve got people on the National Labor Relations Board right now that think they can do though regulation, by the board, that which can’t get through the Senate of the United States of America.

The Senate is not going to give them card check, it’s just that simple. So what are they going to do? They’re going to come up with an approach, or have come up with an approach, that says only those who vote count in the card-check area, or in any other area – in other words, only 51 percent of those who vote, in the whole employment complex.

Now that kind of stuff has never been done before, but they’re doing it.

When they don’t have the ability to do what’s right, they’ll do what’s wrong. And to be honest with you, it’s giving us a lot of fits.

Given the context of the conversation, we took Hatch’s “they” to be the Obama Administration and Senate Democratic allies, supported by Big Labor.

Sen. Hatch is recalling the National Mediation Board’s decision in May to allow a union to be recognized if a simple majority of workers who cast ballots approved. The decision, which applies to workers at airlines and railroads, overturned a 76-year-old rule that governed union elections. The new rules went into effect on July 1, the NMB said in a news release.

The Senator’s comments raised a realistic concern: If one regulatory and quasi-judicial agency with an Obama-appointed majority on its board can make such a radical change in longstanding law, what’s to stop the NLRB from doing the same?

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