Obama, Union Bigs: As close as you can get

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Barack Obama preps Big Labor payoff: Forcing disinterested workers into unions without a secret ballot election

Poor George McGovern. For some time, people were comparing Barack Obama to the former candidate and his left-wing campaign of 1972. But as it turns out, Obama is far more liberal than McGovern was.

Video: "McGovern: EFCA cannot be justified"

This fact is highlighted by a new ad campaign featuring McGovern as an advocate for American workers, in opposition to a bill long sought by labor unions that would limit their freedoms when it comes to unionization. The bill, known by the misleading name of the “Employee Free Choice Act,” would help unions take over American shops by eliminating the requirement that the employee vote take place by secret ballot.

Labor unions have declined in relevance and influence for private sector workers over the last 50 years — they now represent just 7.5 percent of private sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor leaders hope that the Employee Free Choice Act will reverse this trend. And under an Obama administration, they are likely to get what they want.

Currently, unions attempting to organize shops must allow employees a secret-ballot election. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, union leaders could simply convince a majority of workers to sign cards — with no privacy — in what is known as the “card check” system.

This is what worries McGovern, a longtime ally of labor unions.

“I’m concerned about a bill in Congress that would effectively eliminate an employee’s right to a private vote when deciding whether to join a union,” McGovern says in the new ad. “It is hard to believe that any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote.”

Workers around the country, including in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, have complained of union officials using misleading tactics in order to get them to sign cards. For example, workers have been told that if they sign, they will receive more information about the union — not that they are voting for unionization.

McGovern’s stance on this issue stands in contrast to the posture Democrats have adopted in Congress. This is why the Employee Free Choice Act offers an excellent example of the “change” that an Obama administration will bring about.

When it came up in the U.S. House last year, the Employee Free Choice Act passed by a very wide margin, 241 to 185. In the Senate, it failed after receiving 51 votes out of a needed 60 for cloture. Every Democrat present supported it, as did one Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.). One Democrat, Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.), was not present.

If Democrats do well in this election, they could gain Senate seats in Minnesota, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, and New Hampshire. If one more domino falls — in North Carolina or Georgia, for example — there will be no protection for workers who do not want their preference in unionization to be known publicly.

Barack Obama has a history of empowering union bosses. He did so in Illinois, carrying water for the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) as chairman of the state Senate Health Committee. He also makes his position vis-à-vis the unions clear in his 2006 political memoir, The Audacity of Hope:

I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away. I don’t consider this corrupting in any way; I don’t mind feeling obligated.

In the same book, Obama offers his own candy-coated explanation of the “card check” system:

Employers should have to recognize a union if a majority of employees sign authorization cards choosing the union to represent them.”

Note how Obama completely misrepresents the issue at hand, implying that the question is whether employers should recognize a majority vote. Obama gives no mention of the fact that employees currently have a right to a fair and federally supervised secret-ballot election to choose a union. In fact, unions won 56 percent of such elections held in 2005. By removing the context from the issue, Obama makes it seem like he is doing a service for workers by taking away the guarantee that they can make their own choice, free of harassment.

In his next sentence in Audacity, Obama refers obliquely to another provision in the Employee Free Choice Act, known as “binding arbitration”:

Federal mediation should be available to help an employer and a new union reach agreement on a contract within a reasonable amount of time.

This again refers to a problem without actually describing it. “Binding arbitration” would allow an Obama Labor Department to get involved — and to force employers to accept union terms quickly. “Binding arbitration” gives unions an upper hand, and a reason to eschew reasonable negotiated terms before the government becomes a player.

It should be no surprise that Obama is willing to do whatever union bosses ask. For what unions do best is help Democrats win elections. In 2006, they spent $58 million to that end. This year, just one union — the SEIU — has pledged to spend $85 million, and total union expenditures could exceed $300 million. With the Employee Free Choice Act, Barack Obama will pay back the labor leaders with a larger base of dues-payers — many of whom wouldn’t have voted for the union in a private-ballot election.

- David Freddoso


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