As I wrote earlier in the week, although the nation's focus is on the president's proposal for government-run health care, that doesn't mean other controversial bills, such as cap and trade, have gone away. And given the tendency of the current Congress to rush legislation through--before members can read it--concerned citizens need to keep an eye on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. Among other things, the current form of EFCA will eliminate the right of workers to have a secret ballot election when they make a decision on joining a union, replacing it with a "free-to-peek" card check provision.
Also, federal arbitrators could assume a much greater role at businesses--particularly small ones--if EFCA becomes law.
And we all know that small businesses produce most of the nation's new jobs.
Yesterday afternoon I listened in on a bloggers conference call with Virgina Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell and a couple of Old Dominion business leaders.
McDonnell didn't wait long before denouncing EFCA, calling it "This is one of the most anti-competitive, anti free-enterprise pieces that I've ever seen introduced by Congress." He blew the whistle on card check, and on the arbitration provision. The former Virginia attorney general declared, "If there is no agreement between management and labor within 120 days, it requires the appointment of a federal arbitrator to come in and essentially write the contract for a private company."
Wow. A major overreach, is the way I look at it. And remember, Barack Obama administration is the most pro-labor president since Lyndon B. Johnson. Or maybe even Franklin Roosevelt.
Virginia is a right-to-work state. And McDonnell stated that "year in and year out it ranked as one one of the most--if not the most--business friendly states in the country."
Business leaders, large, small, and medium are opposed to card check, McDonnell said, and even union members, he added, appreciate the right of a secret ballot.
McDonnell told us that he has written letters to Virginia's two Democratic Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, asking them to vote against EFCA.
The call was turned over to Michael Coakley of CJ Coakley, a plaster and ceilings contractor. Under current labor law, Coakley explained, petitions can be used to call for a secret ballot election to determine whether a firm will become a union shop. But there is no standardization on how these forms are compiled, nor is there a system to determine the veracity of the signatures, or how they were obtained.
Here's my take--if petitions don't work now, they're not going to work if EFCA is enacted.
Do you need an example? Coakley provided one. In 1997, Coakley's firm was hired for a project in Manassas, Virginia, and the terms of the job required them to hire a safety officer, who has fluent in Spanish and English. A few months later he asked employees to sign what management thought was a safety form--in fact it was a petition requesting union representation. The National Labor and Relations Board ruled the petitions were valid, even though the the company produced thirty employees who declared they didn't know they were signing a union representation form.
There was an election forty-five days later, but the workers overwhelmingly decided to remain non-union.
My fear is that if EFCA is passed, it could open thousands of Pandora boxes throughout the nation.
David Gum, of the president and CEO National Fruit Company, spoke next. The firm has some union members. Gum holds monthly meetings with his employees--something he takes pride in. Still, no workplace is viewed a perfect by any employee, and Gum has had several unfair labor practices filed against him. Describing the experience, Gum said," and it was almost like strangers filing against me, and it was incredible-- our employees were up-in-arms about this entire deal." He continued, "It cost me a lot of money, we won every single one of them, but none the less it was pain."
National Fruit Company has 300 employees, and like many firms it faces competition from China, although he mentioned Canada as well.
The overall tone of the message was that the arbitrators--that is, the federal government, would be an unwanted "third party" that may end up telling businesses how they will run their operations. Businesses face many challenges even during the best economic times--I don't think they need another.
And Americans don't need the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.
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