Today, the National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to the House of Representatives and Senate expresses support for H.R. 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act. The letter, from NAM Senior Vice President, Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse, outlines a number of measures in the legislation that are priorities for the manufacturing sector and will help the economy continue to rebound. Read More
The Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, Mark Pearce, made comments to reporters this week outlining several issues he would like to address in the coming year through rule making now that he has been bestowed three new members by recess appointment. Among the issues he would like to push via regulatory fiat are:
– Requiring employers to furnish unions their employees’ personal email and phone numbers
– Further compressing the time for representation elections
– Expanding the use of electronic filings
Pearce goes on to share his ideas of the NLRB being a “household word” for everyone. An interesting goal to be certain, but the Chairman appears to have overlooked that the NLRB is in fact a four-letter word – if you want to characterize it as a word at all. At any rate, the four-letter word most Americans want to be more familiar with is spelled J-O-B-S.
The Board Chairman promises to anyone paying attention that, “We keep our eye on the prize.” Pray tell, Mr. Chairman, what prize are you talking about? Jobs are the prize Americans want, not the aggrandizement of a federal agency and a stacked deck in favor of organized labor.
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: Read More
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.
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. Read More
This morning the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released new figures for union membership rates in 2010. Their figures show that union membership continued its downward trend as the number of union members dropped to 14.7 million, down from 15.3 million in 2009. The overall “rate” of unionization also declined as only 11.9 percent of all workers were members of a labor union in 2010.
Last year’s figures showed that for the first time more union members were employed by government in the public sector than by private sector employers. This dynamic continued in 2010 as 52 percent of all union members were public sector employees.
So what does this mean?
- It’s clear that fewer and fewer American workers feel the need to join labor unions. These figures help to explain why labor leaders have been so adamant in their efforts to change U.S. labor law in order to give union organizers greater influence. In previous years these efforts were marked by union support for legislation like “card check” but union leaders and their allies in Washington are now more focused on using executive branch actions like regulations and NLRB cases to change the rules.
- In recent years, we’ve seen Big Labor turn increasingly leftward, promoting a “progressive” political and social agenda that has little do with jobs creation and economic growth. By and large, that’s a result of the public sector unions and their leadership trained in government and politics, not on the factory floor. The continuing rise in public sector unions means that fewer union leaders will be engaged with the private sector (manufacturing) economy, which ultimately pays for all the government union jobs. Union leaders have been seeking numerous opportunities to expand the size of government – which would ultimately lead to more public sector employees, which in turn would boost union members.
Policymakers should focus their efforts on developing policies that enable employers to create jobs, rather than seeking ways to prop up union membership by changing U.S. labor laws.
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. Read More
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. Read More
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.
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
In Utah, Constitutional Amendment A is leading in early balloting, 58-42 percent.
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.
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.”