01.31.2010 0

The Really Dark Side of the Proposed Employee Free Choice Act

  • On: 02/24/2010 09:34:28
  • In: Big Labor
  • By David Nye

    Many observers are justly alarmed by one of the biggest pending thank-you gifts from the Obama administration to Big Labor — the proposed Employee “Free Choice” Act (EFCA). Already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 800), the measure would radically change how unions organize employees. Under federal law since 1935, employees have voted by secret ballot on whether to accept a union as their bargaining agent.

    But union bosses are now in a panic because not enough workers have been voting the “right” way. Private-sector union membership has plunged from 30 percent in 1958 to just 7.2 percent in 2009. And for the future? A poll conducted by Opinion Research Corp. last year found that, by a margin of 82 to 13 percent, non-union workers did not want their jobs unionized.

    But under EFCA, once a bare majority of employees in the target “bargaining unit” signs authorization cards, the National Labor Relations Board will install the union as bargaining agent for all employees in the group. Never mind that the Supreme Court has declared such cards “inherently unreliable” — no more secret ballot.

    When confronted by union organizers, workers would have to vote publically for or against the union by either signing a card or not. And most employees know that if they don’t sign and the union is installed, they will, as “scabs,” be marked men and women on the union-dominated shop floor.

    Though there have been outcries against this attack on individual voting rights, another feature of EFCA that could do real damage to the economy has been less publicized. A brave worker can still say no to signing a union card, but if EFCA becomes law, firms whose employees become unionized must roll over to union demands in first contract negotiations.

    EFCA would force the parties to submit to federal mediation if they cannot reach agreement in 90 days. If that fails, government-appointed arbitrators would dictate the new labor contract.
    Knowing that the purpose of EFCA is to reward unions for supporting the political party to which they have been joined at the hip pocket for 80 years, these arbitrators will not be confused about their marching orders: give the unions what they want.

    Such fiats will be binding for two years. There is no appeal. It matters not that arbitrators might lack knowledge of business operations, of the employer’s competitive position, or of the long-term implications of their orders, e.g., cancelled expansion plans.

    Like EFCA, current law forces employers to deal with union quasi-monopolies, but unions still must either temper their demands or put them to the test of the market when an employer digs in. Can employees strike and find in the market the wages and benefits they seek, leaving the struck firm unable to find qualified replacements at its current pay rates?

    Under EFCA, this check on excessive union demands disappears. Through its arbitration panels, the Obama administration would effectively write labor contracts to fulfill the wishes of its union friends, and union monopoly would no longer be “quasi.” It would be complete.

    If passed, EFCA will thus be one more step toward nationalization of the U.S. economy, and the tab will be paid in higher consumer prices, higher unemployment, curtailed business investment, or all three.

    David Nye, professor of Management at Athens State University in Alabama, is a guest Liberty Features Syndicated writer and can be reached at davidnye@yahoo.com.

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