Thursday, June 25, 2009

Report from the bloggers' conference call with Rep. John Kline talking about EFCA

Americans who follow politics are keeping a close eye on Washington--and their wallets--as the cap-and-trade energy bill, commonly known as "cap-and-tax," makes it's way onto the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

But another bad bill, the absurdly named Employee Free Choice Act, still lurks in the wings of the Capitol.

The bill is down, but not out.

This afternoon I participated in a bloggers' conference call with Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who is the ranking member of the House Education Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. The chairman of that committee is George Miller (D-CA), who I found out this evening signed his name to a letter to Mexican union officials that stated, "The secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose."

If it's good enough for Mexico, it should be good enough for Americans.

As for EFCA, Kline says "It's very bad legislation, very bad policy."

Kline didn't mention the Miller quote, but he did remind us that the Bay Area representative is the chief proponent of EFCA, which among other things, would eliminate workers' rights to a secret ballot to determine if they want to join a union, replacing it with a free-to-peek petition drive known as card check.

EFCA backers claim they need card check because they face harassment from management whenever they attempt to organize a work force. Kline brought up the recent struggle between the Service Employees International Union and the National Union of Healthcare Workers over the right to represent home health care workers in a central California city, the retired Marine colonel noted the word "harassment" has been tossed around, and remember, this is a tussle between two unions.

I asked Kline a question about who EFCA would effect tax revenues, he mentioned studies that show unionization increases unemployment.

Fewer workers, less taxes.

Shortly after President Obama's election, EFCA seemed like it would certainly pass in Congress and get signed into law. But it didn't.


Here's Kline's explanation:

There were some co-sponsors of this legislation (in 2007) who were frankly co-sponsors because they had been pressured, however gently or hard, by some of the union leadership to sign onto the bill.

But George W. Bush was president then, and Kline figures that some of those co-sponsors put their names on the EFCA bill knowing that it would never become law--Bush would veto it.

With Obama as president, their taking a closer look at the bill, and "they understand increasingly that it is very unpopular with their constituents."

Kline added, "By a 70-30, 80-20 margin, (voters) don't like this."

In short, in my words, it's a bad bill.

It's down, but not out. Kline is looking to the future and the 2010 elections, in which the Republicans are likely to gain seats. The opposition party almost always makes gains in Congress in off-year elections.

But big labor has its eyes on the calendar too. Even with EFCA wounded, they know that this year could be their only chance to get the so-called Employee Free Choice Act passed into law.

Related post (Northfield is in Kline's district):

September 7, 1876: The defeat of Jesse James in Northfield, Minnesota

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