8/24/08

Union organizers offend small business expert

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Why change secret-ballot elections?

Imagine walking into your voting booth this November. Now, imagine the curtain is open, and people are watching you vote. Now, visualize these spectators telling you how to vote.

Does this offend you? If it does, you're probably against the attempt by organized labor to alter the workplace radically by seeking union recognition outside the long-protected secret-ballot election.

In 2007, the House of Representatives passed HR 800, the misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act." Many in the small-business community call it the "Employee No Choice Act" because it strips away the right to a private ballot and could result in employees being forced to accept a government-negotiated wage and benefit contract.

Labor bosses want to replace the right of employees to vote privately in union elections and replace it with a system known as "card check." Under this new model, many union drives would be started easily from outside the business, not by the employees themselves.

Rather than hold an election, union representatives would need only to coerce a majority of employees to sign authorization cards. Once a union collects enough signed cards, the organizing drive would be over and the business would become unionized. All of this would occur either without the knowledge or involvement of the business owner.

Stacking the deck

Under current law, business owners can agree to a card-check organizing drive instead of a secret-ballot election, but this legislation removes that choice. Unions want to do away with the secret ballot because it stacks the deck in their favor.

You might be surprised to know unions won 54 percent of the 1,559 elections conducted in fiscal year 2007. Using card checks, however, unions are successful more than 90 percent of the time.

Another troubling aspect of this plan is a provision that says if a card-check organizing drive is successful, an employer has only 120 days to accept the union's contract offer. If the two sides don't agree during this time, a federal bureaucrat would come in and decide the wage and benefit terms for the work force.

Small businesses would be especially vulnerable to card check. In fiscal year 2005, 70 percent of elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board involved bargaining units of 50 employees or fewer.

Even very small businesses would be vulnerable: More than 20 percent of NLRB-supervised elections involved bargaining units of 10 employees or fewer.

I recently asked one small-business owner with 24 employees what he would do if a union obtained the necessary 12 card-check signatures. "Shut down shortly thereafter," he said.

Workers' rights and Tennessee's status as one of 22 right-to-work states would be threatened under card check. Few believe Volkswagen, Nissan and Saturn would have chosen Tennessee if we were a forced-union state. It's important to communicate this message.

I encourage concerned readers to sign the petition at www.myprivateballot.com and contact your senators and congressman. Tell them to protect the secret ballot and oppose this effort to change the workplace radically.

- Jim Brown is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee's leading small-business association.

(tennessean.com)

Why union bigs want to know your vote

More EFCA stories: here

Union dues lag under true worker-choice

I would have to disagree with a letter writer that the Employee Free Choice Act is "one of the most important civil rights issues of our time." The Employee Free Choice Act is nothing more than a union attempt to bypass the secret ballot that is sometimes required to unionize a company.

It is understandable to me why labor unions would like to thwart secret ballots. It is much easier to intimidate the correct people, if you only need to know whether or not they have signed the petition.

The secret ballot is a necessary safeguard to ensure that the employees' best interests are truly being served and not only those of the labor unions, which are more interested in increasing revenue from dues than protecting workers.

If unionization is truly what the employees want, then having a secret ballot would only serve to reinforce this desire.

Are labor unions so afraid of free choice that they feel it is necessary to squash the secret ballot?

- Richard Sorrell, Jacksonville

(jacksonville.com)

George McGovern gets it right

Related story: "Respected Democrat rips EFCA"

Union cash turns Dems against working Americans

Employers and organized labor are gearing up for a titanic battle over proposed federal legislation to alter the way unions are formed and recognized by management.

At stake is the decades-old system of asking workers in secret ballot elections overseen by impartial federal officials whether they want to unionize. The Employee Free Choice Act would end secret ballot elections and require management to recognize any union that obtains the signatures of a majority of workers.

Management and organized labor agree that replacing secret ballot elections with the so-called “card check” would dramatically improve labor’s chances to unionize private-sector workers.

The bill is emerging as an issue in the presidential campaign because Barack Obama co-sponsored it and promised to sign it if elected, while John McCain strongly opposes it.

That’s why Wal-Mart managers touched off a storm when they told workers that a Democratic victory in November would likely mean a major change in federal law, one that could force them to pay large union dues, endure strikes without compensation and job cuts.

Labor cried foul. Several unions are pushing for a probe to see if the retailer’s campaign violated federal election laws because it implicitly advocates a vote against Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee.

Union officials say Wal-Mart’s tactics are yet another example of management’s union-busting. And that’s the problem with secret ballot elections, they argue. The very act of setting an election date gives management time to mount a campaign against union organizers.

Employers, naturally, take the opposite position. They say the secret ballot protects workers – who may be reluctant to shell out union dues – from union intimidation. If all a union needs to do to be recognized is to gather a majority of signatures, what’s to stop organizers from harassing or intimidating workers into signing?

In fact, both sides have at times crossed the line with improper strong-arm tactics.

Two quick examples. In June, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Wal-Mart illegally fired a pro-union employee in Arizona. And, closer to home, some workers at the Connecticut Convention Center and Hartford Marriott Downtown were mad enough at organizers of Unite Here for trying to push their way in without an employee vote two years ago that they ran to the media in protest.

While labor and management claim to represent workers’ best interests, both groups have private agendas as well. Management feels pressured to run lean, to slash costs and hold payrolls down. Labor is under pressure to survive. Unions now represent only 7.5 percent of private-sector workers, less than half of their share 25 years ago.

While organizers tend to prevail in secret ballot elections – they win half to two-thirds of the time – they aim to do away with them.

Officials of the Service Employees Internatinal Union have been quoted as saying the EFTC Act would allow them to organize 1 million new members per year, instead of their current annual recruitment of 100,000.

So the bill serves labor’s self-interest while it undercuts the interests of both management and workers. It deserves to be rejected.

Former Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president and a self-described “long-time friend of labor unions,” put it eloquently in a recent opinion article in The Wall Street Journal when he wrote:

“We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.”

(hartfordbusiness.com)

Barack taps Teamster big

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Dem opts for labor-state union official

As a nod to union workers, Sen. Barack Obama has chosen a Teamsters union official from Taylor, Michigan, to speak at the National Democratic Convention the night Obama accepts the party’s nomination for president.

The union worker, Roy Gross, is a truck driver who spoke at Obama’s Warren rally in May. There, Gross outlined the troubles he’s facing as a blue collar worker in Michigan.

On August 28th, Gross will address over 75,000 Democrats at Invesco Field in Denver with a message about his struggles working in Michigan’s weak economy.

This is a pretty strategic choice for Obama. He wants to send out a strong message to union workers that he has their backs. Also, he wants people in places like Taylor, Michigan, which is part of Wayne County with a 84% white population, to feel that they have a stake in this race. Local newspapers in Taylor are loving it, I’m sure. This will give Obama a boost in Michigan this November.

Another Michigan speaker will take the stage at the DNC: Senator Debbie Stabenow will speak on Tuesday and she, too, will address the economy.

(michiganmessenger.com)

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