Tag: Employee Free Choice Act

Don’t Make the Lame Duck More Lame

There has been much discussion lately about what measures will be considered in a lame-duck session of Congress. While some of the legislation is needed, such as annual appropriation bills and an extension of the so-called Bush tax cuts, other bills would be much more controversial and could be harmful to our fragile economy.

For the past two years, there have been numerous calls for Congress to pass a slew of labor union priorities – often these bills have more to do about strengthening the union apparatchiks than helping the working folk. Three good examples:

Though all three of these bills have nice titles that make them sound like fair-minded pieces of legislation, all of them will increase the cost of doing business. When you do that, jobs disappear.

The National Association of Manufacturers has been urging Congress to avoid considering each of these bills during a lame-duck session. There has been bipartisan opposition to each of these job-killing proposals in both the House and Senate. To take them up during a session of Congress when, as it appears right now, many Members of Congress will have been voted out of office would not reflect well on the institution. Moreover, all three bills were bad ideas before the election and they’re even worse during a lame-duck session. Congress, don’t make the lame-duck more lame.

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

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).

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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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‘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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Labor Policy Round-Up

Yee-haw – we felt it was about time that we did another labor round up at the shopfloor.org corral.

Recusal refusal: The Wall Street Journal echoed our concerns with the National Labor Relations Board when it published an editorial earlier that examines recess-appointed NLRB member Craig Becker’s conflict of interest with his consideration of NLRB cases that involve his former employers – the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes: Can’t help but to think of the lyrics of the old Bowie tune when we learned of Anna Burger’s impending departure from the labor groups Change to Win and the SEIU: “I still don’t know what I was waiting for And my time was running wild”. And run wild they did. During Ms. Burger’s time the labor group has tirelessly advocated expanding government, the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act and radical changes at the NLRB to seat one of their own (Craig Becker.) Perhaps she realized: “Every time I thought I’d got it made It seemed the taste was not so sweet.”

When the Data Doesn’t Help Your Case, Question the Data! The top brass over at OSHA have had a hard timing understanding why injury and illness rates have shown such marked improvement over the years. So instead of acknowledging that America’s workplaces were getting safer, they questioned the accuracy of the data. In October of last year the agency launched an initiative to ferret out an alleged widespread underreporting of workplace safety incidents by employers. However, the agency quietly “paused” the program recently as regional OSHA officials expressed doubts about the program’s effectiveness, saying they were not finding significant violations.

Labor in Focus in the Rocky Mountain State: EFCA will continue to be an issue during the midterm elections. After this week’s primary elections in Colorado the voters will face a decision between two candidates that have different approaches to the card check legislation. There is incumbent Senator Michael Bennet who has not taken a clear position on the jobs-killing bill and Ken Buck, Weld County district attorney, strongly opposes the measure.

Problems with EFCA in the Mountain State: West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, the Democratic frontrunner in the U.S. Senate race for the late Sen. Byrd’s seat, has said he has doubts about the card check legislation if it hasn’t made it through a Democratic-controlled administration and Congress. ‘I told labor, “Something is wrong with that piece of legislation if you haven’t been able to get it passed by now,”’ Manchin said.”  Something wrong? The fact that the legislation would cost 600,000 Americans their jobs shows just how wrong it is.

We hope all candidates will realize the devastating economic impact that card check and related proposals will have on our economy and join the NAM in rejecting the misguided legislation.

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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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