Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Democats's vision of how labor relations should work

Bryan O'Keefe takes a look at some of the elements of the new labor bill that the Democrats are pushing.
Big labor’s major legislative priority for this year, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” will be voted on by the House this week and, with more than 230 co-sponsors, its passage is virtually a foregone conclusion.

The most discussed part of the bill would eliminate secret ballot elections in workplace representation elections and replace them with a system of card checks. Only requiring that they get a signed card from a majority of employees would make it much easier for unions to organize workers.

A lesser-known provision in the legislation could actually affect both union and nonunionized workers and employers even more than abolishing the right to a secret ballot in representation elections.

According to the EFCA, when a nonunion company is unionized through the card-check method, management and labor would only have 90 days to settle a contract. After that, the union could force the newly unionized company into government-supervised mediation.

If union and management still have not reached an agreement in another 30 days, a government-appointed arbitrator would set the final binding contract terms.

In reality, negotiations for new contract terms almost always take longer than 90 or 120 days, especially when management and labor are negotiating for the first time. The consequence of this proposal then is that government-appointed arbitrators would be setting wages and benefits for private sector companies.
Clever, huh? Use a labor law to gain the power for government to start setting wages for private companies. As O'Keefe concludes,
The likely result is that even more companies will be forced to close shop and move jobs offshore. It’s a mystery how this type of government policy would help the middle class that organized labor speaks of so often.

In fact, the only people who will truly benefit from this type of arbitration are union leaders. By forcing contract terms on new union members without a ratification vote, union leaders would not have to be accountable for their actions or even work in good faith with management.

Also, with their enthusiasm for the minimum wage increase and universal health care reform, it’s clear that many union leaders have no objection to the government playing a bigger role in establishing wage and benefits.

Here’s hoping that when the Senate debates the “Employee Free Choice Act,” senators will recall the original intent of our nation’s labor law. As former National Labor Relations Board member Charles Cohen testified recently before Congress, the National Labor Relations Act was “founded on the notion that the parties, not the government, should determine the applicable terms and conditions of employment.”

Let’s keep it that way.
I hope that, if this bill gets through the Senate, that Bush has a veto pen ready.