02.28.2010 0

Union Paybacks Advanced Administratively, Even As They Fail Legislatively

  • On: 03/10/2010 09:56:36
  • In: Big Labor
  • By Kevin Mooney

    While addressing the National Press Club (NPC) in January, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka predicted The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would pass in “the first quarter of 2010,” but declined to say if his organization would support a compromised version.

    That time is fast approaching and it appears that Trumka and other union bosses do not have the votes for EFCA, which includes the anti-democratic card check legislation and binding arbitration. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the lead sponsor in the upper chamber, has reportedly discussed the possibility of a repacked bill that would drop card check in exchange for maintaining the arbitration measure.

    However, Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI), has said that any bill that would allow for federal mediators to impose contracts remains unacceptable to business.

    Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has already said that she would oppose EFCA. Other potential swing votes against the bill include Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

    But even as they fail to secure coercive policy changes through a straight up and down vote, labor bosses are pursuing non-legislative channels for their paybacks from the Obama Administration and the Democratic congress.

    In the 2008 election cycle, unions spent almost $80 million on independent broadcast advertising, mail and advocacy to either elect or defeat candidates for federal office, according to OpenSecrets.org. Federal records also show that labor union political action committees (PACs) contributed over $66 million to federal candidates in 2008, with 92 percent of this total going to Democrats.

    They want some return on that investment and this is what concerns business owners. The idea now is to secure portions of the EFCA bill by way of administrative changes that do not require congressional approval. Craig Becker, an associate general counsel for The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was recently denied a seat on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on the basis of extreme positions that he had articulated as a UCLA professor.

    In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, Becker argued that traditional notions of democracy should not apply in union elections. The key phrase being, “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.”

    He also wrote that employers should not be permitted to attend NLRB election hearings or to challenge election results in response to possible union misconduct. In addition, Becker has proposed a “new body of campaign” rules replete with new provisos that would restrict the employer’s ability to communicate with workers about the downside of unionization.

    While addressing the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) annual meeting in Disney World, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis hinted that a recess appointment was still possible for Becker.

    The consternation over non-legislative administrative rulemaking goes a long way toward explaining why the U.S. remains stuck in a jobless recovery. With the private sector looking ahead in anticipation of increased costs, higher taxes, federal mandates and new bureaucracies, there is a little incentive for new hiring.

    Instead of putting capital to work, small business owners and entrepreneurs are retrenching in anticipation of potentially burdensome legislation set up to benefit organized labor at the expense of the larger economy.

    Steve Forbes, the magazine publisher who previously ran for president as champion of the flat tax, recently warned members of congress in testimony about the parallels that exist between contemporary polices and the heavy handed government intervention of the 1930s.

    “Go back to the Great Depression when the government had forced unionization,” Forbes said. “The U.S. had one of the worst recovery records in the 1930s but after World War II when the government did nothing to the economy except cut spending with a few small tax cuts and the reform bill of Taft-Hartley and low and behold we experienced a post war boom.”

    The “culture of favoritism” is one of the main factors holding back what could otherwise be a robust recovery, Forbes explained, because the Obama policies are fueling artificial price increases that have come not in response to consumer demand but to “government diktats.”
    Consequently, the current “sub-par” recovery is beginning to mimic a cycle last experienced in the 1970s when the economy retracted again after a short period of jobless, economic growth, he added.

    Forbes made his remarks during a special forum organized by House Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee. He was joined by former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao who said the jobless recovery now in motion is attributable at least in part to policies set up to benefit “Big Labor” at the expense of the private sector.

    “While the administration focused on appeasing its organized labor allies, job creation ground to a halt,” she said. “Current job creation figures are abysmal. The dearth of job creation during this administration distinguishes this recession from other downturns.”

    Kevin Mooney is the editor of TimesCheck.com.

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