Tag: Employee Free Choice Act

Questions for AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka at the Press Club

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka speaks at a National Press Club luncheon on Friday, an appearance billed thusly:

Trumka will speak out on recent efforts to curb collective bargaining rights in several states, including Wisconsin and Ohio. He also will discuss the political outlook for the 2012 elections, and the impact of austerity budgets on local, state and federal workers.

All good topics. Here are a few others that the reporters could raise during the Q&A period that traditionally follows Press Club remarks.

  • In a January 2010 National Press Club appearance you said: “I think you will see the Employee Free Choice Act pass in the first quarter of 2010.” And …”The president fully supports the Employee Free Choice Act, the Vice President fully supports the Employee Free Choice Act, a vast majority of the members of the House support the Employee Free Choice Act, a vast majority of the people of the Senate support the Employee Free Choice Act. And I think we are going to have the Employee Free Choice Act despite the determined efforts of the Republican Party.” So were you shining us on, deceiving your membership for tactical reasons, or are you just a lousy prognosticator? Did the failure of card check reflect organized labor’s lack of political influence? Your own lack of influence?

  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses anti-coal crowd at April rally. (Photo: Energy Action Coalition)

  • You began your career as a coal miner and served as President of the United Mine Workers before being elected to head the AFL-CIO. Yet at an April “Power Shift” rally in front of the White House, you joined environmental activists in demanding “clean energy” policies in which coal has no role. Demonstrators held signs declaring “Coal is Over” and “No More Coal!” (More photos here and here.) How can you, as a union president, make common cause with activists who want to shut down the coal industry?

  • AFL-CIO affiliated unions are members of the Blue-Green Alliance, which includes such organizations as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Many people regard these groups as hostile to the industrial base of this nation’s economy. How do you reconcile union support for this alliance? According to a Department of Commerce study, green products and services account for at most 2 percent of private sector activity. How you can justify spending member dues on groups who have such a narrow focus and whose policies would eliminate unionized jobs in the energy and manufacturing sectors?

  • Do you believe nuclear power has a role in America’s future energy production? Because AFL-CIO member unions are sending member dues to a group that includes the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the major opponents of nuclear energy.

  • Should a company that currently has unionized operations in a state ever be allowed to locate new operations in a right-to-work state?
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Goal of NLRB Complaint against Boeing, Neutrality Agreement?

In promoting his new online column, “The Persecution of Boeing,” National Review Editor Rich Lowry commented in NRO’s The Corner blog:

The NLRB is on very tenuous ground here and will almost certainly lose in court. But one expert in these matters was telling me yesterday he wouldn’t be surprised if the game is to try to harass Boeing into agreeing to some sort of card check-like process to unionize the South Carolina facility.

That would consistent with our observation in the May 10 post, “NLRB Already Talking About ‘Settlement’ in Boeing Case.”

The term of art is a “neutrality agreement,” in which a company agrees with a labor union not to request a secret-ballot election if the union attempts to organize a facility. Often management goes that route after suffering a corporate campaign (or threat of a corporate campaign) in which the union blackens the reputations of the company and its executives.

But in this case, it’s the National Labor Relations Board leading the corporate campaign in support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The strategy make sense politically: Attack the critics, pummel the opposition into staying quiet. You can see it being played out in Congress, too. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), evoked the Founding Fathers and “checks and balances” into decrying any criticism of the NLRB. From The Congressional Record:

This kind of interference is inappropriate, it is disgraceful and dangerous.We wouldn’t allow threats to prosecutors or U.S. attorneys trying to stop them from moving forward with charges they see fit to bring to the courts, and we shouldn’t stand for this. It may not be illegal, but it is no better than the retaliation and intimidation that is the fundamental question in this case, and it should stop.

The Founders are telling critics of the NLRB to shut up? Well, in this case, it’s Congress and the states in the form of attorneys general that are providing the checks and balances to restrain a runaway federal agency.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) followed up Wednesday on the Senate floor, arguing in effect that the NLRB should be above criticism because it is an independent Executive Branch agency. The Senator conceded he did not know all the facts of the case, but knocked Boeing around and made the union’s arguments. He then declared: (continue reading…)

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Card Check is Dead, But Labor’s Anti-Democratic Plans Live On

Mickey Kaus, the reform-minded blogger now at The Daily Caller, takes note of the comments of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)  conceding the legislative death of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). According to a report in The Hill, Brown told WVIZ radio, “It’s not going to happen now.”

To which Kaus responds with cynicism disguised by yuck yuck. From “Why K Street Hates Sherrod Brown”:

Brown may have just sent K Street into recession, if that’s possible. Big Business and Small Business, terrified of the “card check” bill–including its mandatory government arbitration provisions–spent heavily on lobbyists to fight it.  How many former Senate staffers have fed their children for the past three years off of the “card check” menace? Businesses are unlikely to keep the fees flowing if the threat has disappeared. They should take up a collection to bring [Atlantic reporter Mark] Ambinder back from National Journal. Or to pay Sherrod Brown to be quiet.  … You’d think by now Brown would know proper D.C. etiquette, which is to pretend “card check” still might, just might, pass, maybe in some “compromise” form. That way Democrats are happy–they’ve led labor on for another cycle–and K Street is happy. Keep hope alive! It’s good for the juice.) …

You bet, the Employee Free Choice Act was a good issue to energize the troops and raise funds for ad campaigns and lobbying. Small, family-owned businesses especially hate the idea of an undemocratic process — card check — being used to turn their operations over to labor unions. Other companies recognized in the Employee Free Choice labor’s strategy for undermining the competitive advantages of locating in right-to-work states. The binding arbitration provisions were indeed anathema to employers: A federal appointee would impose contracts on them!

Of course, labor would not have put so many millions into the bill if they did not see it as necessary to revive private-sector unionization.

NLRB Member Craig Becker

Still, all the calls to action and appeals for money to oppose EFCA would have fallen flat if the bill had not been a real threat to become law. H.R. 800 passed the House in 2007 by a vote of 241-185, and 51 Senators voted for cloture. That was before President Obama, an ardent supporter, won election in 2008. Of course, business groups geared up to fight the bill. They could no longer rely on President Bush to veto the bill.

And now the Employee Free Choice Act is dead, at least legislatively. No one has even bothered to introduce a bill this session.

But at the risk of being accused of ginning up a threat, we assert that labor is still actively working to achieve the fundamental goal of the legislation: rigging the game to favor private-sector unions at the expense of employers. Now they’re just relying on their allies in the Executive Branch to use regulations, orders and decisions to push through the labor agenda. (continue reading…)

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President Makes Nominations to Labor Board Amid Increased NLRB Activism

This week President Obama nominated two individuals to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Lafe Solomon, who has been serving as the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel, was picked to be General Counsel and Terrence Flynn, chief counsel to NLRB member Brian Hayes, was nominated to become the fifth member of the five member board. Should Flynn be confirmed, he would join Hayes as the second Republican on the Board.

While it’s unclear how soon these nominations will be considered by the Senate, the confirmation hearings do provide the Senate with an opportunity to review much of the recent NLRB activity that has so alarmed employers. The Board is slated to make decisions in many key cases, including Lamons Gasket Company, which addresses issues with card check certification, and Roundy’s, dealing with workplace access for union organizers. In addition, the Board has already begun the process of proposing new rulemaking that seeks to make sweeping changes to employee relations by requiring employers to post a notice to employees of their right to unionize. Board Member Hayes has expressed the view that the NLRB lacks the necessary authority to propose this rulemaking, which would require employers to display posters of union rights as well as in some cases make employers distribute such a notice to employees through e-mail.

The National Association of Manufacturers has long been troubled that the current NLRB, which includes the controversial Craig Becker, intends to bend its authority to implement the goals of the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act, skewing the balance of labor relations towards labor unions. The changes sought by the NLRB produce a tremendous amount of uncertainty for employers, which in turn threatens jobs creation and the economic recovery.

We hope that the Senate uses the confirmation process to fully review the Board’s recent action – and makes it clear that the NLRB should not seek to change U.S. labor law without the necessary Congressional action.

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Congrats to WMC for Ruling to Affirm Employer Speech

Congratulations to the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) for the group’s successful challenge to a state law that attempted to restrict employers’ rights to communicate with their employees during union organizing campaigns. From WMC’s “Insight: Union Organizing Statute Found Unconstitutional“:

Earlier this year, Governor Jim Doyle signed Act 290, making Wisconsin the second state in the nation to attempt to strip employers of their right to hold “captive-audience” talks with their workforce. Act 290 amended the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) to prohibit employers from disciplining employees who refuse to attend “employer-sponsored meetings” or “participate in any communication with the employer or agent, representative, or designee of the employer” where the “primary purpose” of the meeting or communication is to express the employer’s “opinion” about an employee’s decision to join or support a union….

WMC and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce had urged Gov. Doyle to veto the bill and thus subsequently filed suit, challenging the state law as a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. More from WMC:

The suit asserted that the WFEA amendments were preempted by the NLRA and violated the free speech rights Wisconsin employers enjoy under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. (continue reading…)

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Report to U.N.: Wonder What Bills the Administration Means

We wrote Tuesday about the U.S. State Department’s document, “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights In Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review.” The Obama Administration’s report, released first in September and then formally submitted last week in Geneva, appears to curry favor with the United Nations by highlighting America’s shortcomings.

Except in many cases these shortcomings are in the fact policy disagreements. To even suggest that the United States falls short in the area of human rights because it has not enacted the Paycheck Fairness Act is an insult to those who believe that employers, not the federal government (or trial lawyers), bear ultimate responsibility for determining an employee’s compensation.

The report also scores the United States in the area of freedom of association.

23. 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.

What bills could the State Department possibly be referring to?

Hah. Obviously, it’s the Employee Free Choice Act. No other legislation is as topical. This is the bill that would replace the secret ballot in union elections with the “card check” process of an employee publicly signing a card, opening the employee to pressure and intimidation by union organizers.

That’s right: Only by eliminating the secret ballot can America “strengthen workers’ rights” and rise to the United Nation’s high standards on human rights. (continue reading…)

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Employee Rights in the Crosshairs Again at the NLRB

Last week’s election results didn’t bode well for supporters of the jobs-killing card check legislation. However, as we’ve noted numerous times here the fight over “card check” unfortunately isn’t dead – it’s manifesting itself through executive branch agencies – namely the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB will taking up case that brings into question the ability of employees to have a secret ballot election should their employers consent to labor union demands and recognize a union through card check sign up. Understanding this is a controversial case that has the potential to reverse precedent established years ago the NLRB invited public comments through the filing of amicus briefs from interested parties.

The National Association of Manufacturers and 41 other manufacturing organizations sent our response to the NLRB last week that stresses the importance of free choice in the unionization process. Any proposal to take away employee rights to hold a secret ballot election would be a tremendous setback for workers, and another coup for union leaders that are frustrated with lack of legislative progress on their most coveted piece of legislation.

Our amicus brief argues that this important 45-day window should not be eliminated. The NAM’s brief stresses that individual free choice regarding whether to be represented at all by a third party is a necessary precondition to any collective negotiation and that card-check union certification is far inferior to secret ballot union elections. To access this legal brief and a summary, click here.

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Card Check: Voters Saying, Yes, We Believe in Secret Ballots

In a multistate rebuke to organized labor, voters in four states are approving measures to reaffirm the sanctity of the secret ballot. No Employee Free Choice Act for us, they say.

South Carolina, AP, “SC voters OK right to secret ballot in union votes

South Dakota, Constitutional Amendment K: “An Amendment to Article VI of the South Dakota Constitution relating to the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot. Precincts: 578/791
Yes 78.46%
No 21.52%

In Utah, Constitutional Amendment A is leading in early balloting, 58-42 percent.

And in Arizona, Proposition 113 is winning 61-39 percent.

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Card Check: Voters Set to Affirm Secret Ballots in Union Elections

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader in South Dakota has a new statewide poll out showing broad support for a state constitutional amendment meant to require secret ballot voting in union representation elections. Respondents supported Amendment K by a margin of 53-23 percent, with 24 percent undecided. The text of the amendment:

§ 28. The rights of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. If any state or federal law requires or permits an election for public office, for any initiative or referendum, or for any designation or authorization of employee representation, the right of any individual to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed.

South Dakota is one of four states where voters will have an opportunity to reaffirm the principle of the secret ballot, the others being Arizona, South Carolina and Utah.

Although the anti-democratic Employee Free Choice Act is a frequent topic at Shopfloor, our focus has always been on the legislation’s prospects in Congress and, more recently, the possibility of the National Labor Relations Board enacting its provisions through rules and case decisions. Union elections fall under federal labor law, which would we would guess — it’s a guess! (if somewhat informed) — that the state measures would not stand a challenge in the courts.

But the state votes on these “Save our Secret Ballot” measures will still send a powerful message, one that members of Congress need to take seriously. Among the original co-sponsors of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, when introduced into the House in February 2007 were the Arizona Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords, Raul Grijalva, Harry Mitchell and Ed Pastor, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, and Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah.

If the above House members are re-elected next week even as the state secret-ballot measures win approval, the voters will have put them on notice: Do not EVER support the Employee Free Choice Act again.

The Wall Street Journal commented on the initiated measures in an Oct. 21 editorial, “Card Checkmate — Voters in four states head to the polls to preserve honest union elections.

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Union Leaders: Still Out of Touch with Union Members

Union bosses are spending a fortune this election cycle to support candidates who have pledged to advance the “union agenda,” which contains many proposals that would be devastating to the economy. However, the media reports, this same level of enthusiasm just isn’t shared by the union members whom the union leaders claim to represent. There is growing sentiment that President Obama and Congressional Democrats have not delivered for working families and have not done enough to revive the economy. Well, in many ways we agree. Many of the proposals that have come out of Congress have actually hindered economic growth, such as: allowing the EPA to run roughshod with its regulations, passing the Ledbetter Bill and expanding government – but not controlling costs – through the health care legislation

Union leadership has already shown itself out of touch with what union members want: Above all, it’s jobs. Officials with Big Labor have waged a full-scale battle in support of the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act, when most union families disagreed with the provisions of the bill, specifically the effective elimination of secret ballots. At the recent “One Nation” rally, union leaders associated their organizations not with the working man or woman, but with the hard-core political left on issues involving social policy and support for the military.

Here at the National Association of Manufacturers we’ve encouraged candidates and Members of Congress from all parties to rally together for a strategy to support manufacturing jobs – something employers and employees both can get behind. We hope that this election day will serve as a wake up call for union leaders and policy makers alike: We need to work together to strengthen our economy and develop policies that help employers create and retain jobs.

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