Now I'm a union man
Amazed at what I am
I say what I think
That the company stinks
Yes I'm a union man.
When we meet in the local hall
I'll be voting with them all
With a hell of a shout
It's out brothers out
And the rise of the factory's fall.
Strawbs, "Part of the Union," 1973.
It's hard to believe, but that song, a big British hit for folk-rockers Strawbs, is generally as a pro-union anthem. UK union bosses never figured out the irony of "The rise of the factory's fall."
As for American union leaders...who probably unanimously backed Barack Obama in last year's presidential election, they are promoting card check, formally known as the Employee Free Choice Act, but sober-minded individuals prefer to call it the Employee FORCED Choice Act.
That's because the secret ballot step for workers to determine whether they want to join a union will be eliminated by EFCA.
This afternoon I participated in a teleconference with Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Today's call focused on the binding arbitration provision of "forced choice."
Packer spoke first, and hit upon "The rise of the factory's fall." She mentioned organized labor's claim that in the first year after EFCA is enacted 1.5 million workers would joins unions, but Packer cited a study that card check would lead to "the loss of 600,000 jobs in the succeeding year."
Calling government enforced binding arbitration "frightening" to both employers and employees, Packer, speaking of union contract negotiations, told the teleconference participants that "the federal government would be forced to intervene after just 90 days if the unions and the business owner cannot come to an agreement, and after that point in time they have just 30 days to mediate an agreement. And if that doesn't happen then they are forced into binding arbitration."
That's where the government gets involved. The arbitrator would decide wages, hours, and the nature--and cost--of health care benefits.
Packer said that the economy wouldn't be able to sustain this system, and EFCA would be especially burdensome to small businesses.
Then Romney took his turn. Besides serving as governor and running for president, the Michigan native had a very successful business career--he was CEO of a large management consulting firm as well as the head of the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee. And his father, George, was chairman of the American Motors Corporation.
So unlike most politicians, Romney's understanding of business issues goes well beyond dealing with the political implications of governmental economic decisions.
In regards to the elimination of secret ballot voting to determine joining a union, and the virtual removal employee decision making in agreeing to labor contracts, Romney called EFCA "an unprecedented attack on the individual rights of American workers and American citizens."
Romney noted the irony that it is the Republicans, who are generally viewed as pro-business, who are left defending the rights of workers.
During the presidential campaign, Romney boasted in a television ad that he liked vetoes. One of the bills he vetoed while governor was a card check equivalent for Massachusetts public sector workers. Romney's Democratic successor, who probably felt he owed organized labor for his victory, signed the bill into law. Which led Romney to tell a story about a Bay State charter school that became unionized during summer break--school officials had not been notified--because the Massachusetts law didn't require management to be informed that a unionization drive had been initiated.
If card check becomes law, this incident will be repeated throughout the nation, Romney says.
The lack of a secret ballot in these matters, Romney explained, opens the door to worker intimidation--both by unions and management.
As for the binding arbitration clause of EFCA, called it a "grab of power by the federal government."
Overall, Romney believes Employee FORCED Choice "would be calamitous for the US economy, short term and long term. But particularly long term."
But it would be good for labor--lots of dues money will be deposited in unions' coffers.
I was fortunate to ask a Romney question during the call, and my query regarded public sector unions--I mentioned SEIU and AFSCME--and whether it troubled him that government workers are conspiring to expand government.
I was pleasantly surprised by his answer, because Romney brought up a hypothetical scenario of a mayoral candidate who makes promises to teachers, firefighters, and police officers to win their endorsement. The candidate wins, and a few months later the new mayor is negotiating their union contracts--on behalf of the taxpayers. But Romney warned, "No one at the bargaining table is representing the citizens," and worse, that mayor is agreeing to obligations, expensive ones such as pensions and retiree health care, that are overlooked by the media because the financial outlay is down the road.
Overlooked now. But not when those employees retire and get sick.
It was a very informative call, but just don't take my word for it. Listen to an excerpt here.
Technorati tags: labor politics unions news business card check Mitt Romney economy efca strawbs