Republicans defend against pro-union legislation
Republicans last week introduced bills in the House and Senate that would mandate employees have the right to secret-ballot elections when deciding if they want to be represented by a union.
Rep. John Kline of Minnesota authored H.R. 1176, the Secret Ballot Protection Act, and has 103 co-sponsors. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina dropped S. 478 into the legislative hopper with 18 Republican co-sponsors.
Both versions of the amendment to the National Labor Relations Act are intended to counter the Employee Free Choice Act that House and Senate Democrats plan to reintroduce this year.
The pro-union act is also referred to as 'card check' because it would replace the requirement that companies hold secret ballots and instead allow employees to organize a union simply by collecting signatures from a majority of workers.
Under the bill, if half of the workers plus one sign union cards the union is automatically recognized as their bargaining representative. Another provision states that if a collective bargaining agreement isn’t in place within 60 days of recognition then a federal arbitrator will impose the first two-year contract on the parties.
The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007 but it was filibustered to death in the Senate. Republican members offered similar amendments at the time to nullify the bill, but they lapsed without being voted on by the Senate.
President Barack Obama supported the bill while serving as a senator.
Business groups are afraid that card-check legislation will make it easier to unionize and drive up costs. They have mobilized lots of lobbying firepower to defeat it.
Workers would retain the option of participating in an election with secret ballots, but labor lawyers note that card-check would effectively eliminate this option because an employer could not insist on an election and any union collecting signatures from a majority of employees would have no reason to seek recognition through a secret-ballot election.
Union membership increased 428,000 to 12.4 percent of the nation's workforce last year, the biggest annual increase since 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the second year in a row that union rolls have increased. In 2007, union membership grew by 311,000.
Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said on C-SPAN's 'Washington Journal' program that opposition to card-check is ironic given the fact that workers can simply sign a card to resign from a union.
By launching a pre-emptive strike with the proposed secret-ballot amendment, Republicans appear to be trying to bring the issue to a vote in the Senate before the Employee Free Choice Act is voted on in the House, where it has its strongest support, according to client alert distributed by the Epstein Becker & Green law firm. ' Eric Kulisch