Chamber blasts ôcard checkö back-door path
U.S. Chamber of Commerce leaders said Tuesday they are very concerned the White House is using the regulatory process in the absence of legislative mandates to alter union-organizing rules and other workplace issues at the expense of businesses.
The National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to advance the union cause of organizing a workplace simply by collecting signatures from a majority of workers instead of conducting a secret ballot illustrates the tactic, said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs, at a press conference held in conjunction with an event to outline the organization’s political priorities for 2011.
Many Washington insiders believed Congress would pass so-called ‘card check’ legislation when Democrats increased their majority in the Senate and Obama won the White House in 2008, but the measure failed to gain enough support to proceed to a vote.
Unions view ‘card check’ as a way to revive their dwindling membership, which now only amount to 7 percent of private-sector employees.
The business community strongly opposes ‘card check’ on the grounds that unions would use intimidation to gain signatures and that the subsequent bargaining would lead to higher labor costs and stifling work rules that would hamstring operational flexibility.
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Last year Obama used a recess appointment to install Craig Becker, a former counsel for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, to the NLRB after the Senate rejected his nomination. The NLRB recently decided in an administrative case involving automotive supplier Dana Corp. that ‘card check’ is a legal organizing tool as long as the employer and union agree in writing in advance. Dana had agreed to ground rules by which the United Auto Workers would be recognized if a majority of employees signed cards in favor of representation. Conservative critics say the ruling opens the door for companies to strike deals with unions on compensation or other areas of interest at the expense of workers that do not want to join a union.
The board in December also proposed a rule that would require employers to publicly notify employees of their right to unionize.
In recent months, the NLRB has expressed interest in allowing electronic voting for union elections. Josten said such a ‘cyber vote’ would allow organizers to pressure workers in their homes and cut off a business’ ability to communicate with its employees on the topic.
‘A cyber vote to us is no different than a card check vote in terms of pressuring,’ he said.
It’s ironic, he said, that the House of Representatives will only vote for who should be Speaker under a secret ballot, but that the secret ballot-principle is under attack in the workplace.
In addition to ‘card check,’ the Department of Labor is trying to rewrite more than 100 rules covering compensation, contracting, leave, ergonomics, workplace safety, hiring and firing, because the White House is under pressure from labor unions, which donated more than $400 million to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Chamber President Thomas Donahue warned in his annual ‘State of American Business’ speech.
The nation’s largest business federation will vigorously oppose policies and rulings that are unfair to employers, but Donahue said union activities are having a more pernicious effect on the nation’s ability to create jobs.
He criticized the union movement — especially public employee unions for ‘pushing an extreme agenda that extends well beyond representing their members in the workplace. They have been using their position as a powerful political force to sabotage the nation’s trade agenda, which has damaged our standing overseas. Some want to vastly expand the size and cost of government, perpetuate the status quo in our failing public schools, and attack the nation’s best companies through destructive tactics.’
The pro-labor efforts are part of a massive proliferation of regulations governing health care, financial markets and other parts of society emanating from the administration use of the rulemaking process and executive orders to achieve goals it could not legislatively win in Congress, Donahue said.
That trend could increase now that Democrats no longer hold the balance of power on Capital Hill, he added.
‘The resulting regulatory tsunami poses, in our view, the single biggest challenge to jobs, our global competitiveness, and the future of American enterprise,’ Donahue said.
Companies are afraid to hire because of the regulatory uncertainty, but Donahue said he is ‘absolutely convinced’ the administration is now ready to take positive action on regulation, trade and other fronts to get people back to work. ‘ Eric Kulisch