With Labor Day weekend upon us, what better time is there to reflect on the state of unions and organized labor in America today? These days, the SEIU, the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association, all seem to be at the center of political debates whose outcomes could have far-reaching consequences for all of us – as workers and consumers.
In the 19th century, workers fought for things we take for granted today – decent and safe working conditions, workman’s compensation and fair wages. Today, we have laws that protect workers from unsafe or even hostile workplaces, Human Rights Departments at the state level looking out for employees that have been wronged and laws that that protects employees from having their wages docked unlawfully. These are just a few examples of the myriad protections we have in place.
Yet, a new Gallup poll shows that labor unions are more unpopular than ever. 51% of Americans believe that labor unions mostly hurt the economy. 6 in 10 Americans say that unions hurt non-union workers. After bailing out auto companies driven into bankruptcy by demanding, uncooperative unions, Americans understand what happens when companies are at the mercy of union bosses.
This is bad news for EFCA supporters. With the focus on health care, we stopped talking about the EFCA this summer – about the card check and mandatory arbitration provisions pushed by Democrats and their biggest benefactors, unions. But, as Jimmie Bise reminded us last week, the EFCA still lives.
Last week, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka indicated that throwing out secret elections isn’t necessarily their biggest priority. The left may be willing to sacrifice card check in exchange for decreasing the time between petitioning to hold an election and the election itself. During this time, both unions and employers campaign for employees’ votes. The median in between time is currently 38 days. Unions want to change this to between 5 and 10 days.
Why is it necessary to waste our representatives’ time and our tax dollars debating how long the time between the petition and election should be? How is decreasing this amount of time, giving employees less time to learn about unions, a ‘concession’ that unions are making to get their favored legislation pushed through? And, why would unions want to speed the process up so significantly? If employers have the upper hand at lobbying employees, shouldn’t time help pro-union workers persuade their colleagues over to their side?
While the focus of the EFCA has been on its card check provisions, proposals to dramatically speed up the election process and the mandatory arbitration provisions in the bill are just as dangerous. In the case of the latter, it might be the most dangerous proposal in the bill. Once the election process is over, if a union is formed, and the employer cannot reach an agreement with the union within 90 days, a union-friendly federal arbitrator steps in to fill in the void and impose binding terms on the union and the employer. What incentive does this give to unions to compromise with their employers? Zero.
Today, the Heritage Foundation posited that with cap-and-trade, we’ll have laborless day from here on out. So it goes with the EFCA. One study found that for every 3% increase in union membership, the unemployment rate would increase by 1% the following year, and job creation would fall by 1.5 million jobs.
We honor our workers by providing them with choice, not depriving them of secret ballots or the time they need to educate themselves on the issues and decide how to vote. Luckily, unions’ bullying tactics are not working, and Americans have caught on to a basic economic principle – that unions are good for those who are in them and bad for everyone else. In honor of America’s workers, the hardest-working most resourceful workers in the world, let’s all remind ourselves what this debate is about and also remind our representatives in Washington that the Employee Free Choice Act does not support choice at all and should be permanently shelved.
*Originally published September 6, 2009 on The American Issues Project Blog, here.