06.30.2009 0

Big Labors Bait and Switch

  • On: 07/29/2009 09:23:40
  • In: Corruption
  • By Isaiah Stegman

    Rumors are circulating that Democrats may drop the “card check” provision from the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). “Card check” would strip workers of their right to a secret ballot in union elections.

    Before supporters of free enterprise even think about celebrating a victory, however, read what comes next. Even if this bill is stripped of “card check” it is dangerous. It still requires labor disputes to be resolved by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) soon to be headed by career union aplogist George Cohen.

    For the past 49 years, Mr. Cohen has worked in labor law, first with the National Labor Relations Board and then, starting in 1966, with the firm Bredhoff and Kaiser, LLP. He spent his 42 years with Bredhoff and Kaiser advocating and negotiating for organized labor, representing such clients as the United Steelworkers of America, the AFL-CIO, the NBA Players’ Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. On June 29, 2009, President Obama nominated him to be director of the FMCS, a post that the EFCA is poised to make considerably more powerful.

    The bill gives employers and new unions 90 days to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. If no agreement is reached within this timeframe, either party can request mediation from the FMCS. If there is still no agreement after 30 days, FMCS will refer the dispute to an arbitration panel set up by the FMCS. The decision of the panel is binding on both parties for two years. So, in essence, the federal government, through the FMCS, will be in a position to mandate wages, benefits, work rules, and other subjects normally found in collective bargaining agreements.

    According to the FMCS website, it is supposed to be a neutral third-party providing mediation in the bargaining process between labor and employers. Cohen’s record as a 40-year union advocate, however, gives cause for concern that he would not be a neutral third party.

    So with the passage of EFCA and the confirmation of Big Labor’s long-time ally George Cohen as the head of FMCS, labor unions would need only pretend to negotiate with employers and wait for their allies at FMCS to rule in their favor. Employers, on the other hand, will have the government mandating wages, benefits, and work rules, further complicating their efforts to dig themselves out of the worst recession in decades.

    So, no cry of victory yet. Rather, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!”

    Isaiah Stegman is the ALG Senior Research Analyst.

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