Last May’s “Federal Triangle” column discussed the euphemistically named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), or “card check” legislation. It was defeated in the last Congress, but with this year’s single-party control of both legislative and executive branches, we are definitely in for a fight as Big Labor seeks a return on their investment. In the last election, well over $1 billion was spent by Big Labor to get President Obama and other politicians favoring forced unionism elected.
As you may already know, card check effectively ends secret-ballot elections by making union recognition immediate if 50% of the authorization cards are signed. In the past (and I have been close to two union-organizing campaigns), people would sign cards to make the union thugs go away, knowing that they could vote against it in a secret ballot. If the current version of EFCA is passed, this will no longer be true.
There is certainly no shortage of opinions about this legislation. Those friendly to its passage like Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) describe the bill as “a critical step toward putting our economy back on track.” Really, Ted? How? Others, such as the 500-member Coalition for a Democratic Workplace state, “the legislation poses not only an assault on an individual’s right to privacy but a direct threat to economic growth and job creation.” The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has adopted a resolution opposed to EFCA. It calls the legislation “a direct assault on free enterprise.”
The facts seem to back up the opposition to this legislation. Analyses by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar indicate that this legislation could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of thousands of jobs or more. One of Big Labor’s stated goals is unionization of 1.5 million jobs if EFCA passes. Her analysis indicates this will lead to a loss of 600,000 jobs by the following year.
Using Canada’s experience with “card check” legislation, Dr. Layne-Farrar finds an even greater potential loss of jobs. Over the past 30 years, Canada has vacillated between card check and secret ballots. Based on this experience, it’s clear that under EFCA more unions will be certified and more workers will be laid off. Union membership was seen to go up 20% under card check, but for every 3% increase in unionized workers, the unemployment rate goes up 1%. Based on these numbers, if the AFL-CIO predictions are correct that unionization will increase by 5%, 2.7 million American workers will lose their jobs.
In spite of these facts, Mr. Obama endorsed card check and vowed that it “will pass.” Consistent with this position, Obama issued executive orders removing requirements for workers to be informed of their right not to pay the portion of their union dues attributable to political activities.
For the time being, the business community has beaten back the legislation by convincing Arlen Specter it was in his interest to oppose it. He had previously supported it and could have given the Democrats enough weight to pass it. Sen. Specter has said that he might support a compromise position, however.
Big Labor has invested mightily, and it’s clear they are not going to give up. Compromise is the new watchword. What will this compromise look like? It’s likely that card check will be watered down a bit to get an up vote to put it on the floor for debate. Once it gets past a filibuster, however, they would then “fix” it to the way they wanted it in the first place.
Alternatively, a compromise to watch for is expedited, or “snap,” elections. Snap elections will allow the EFCA to preserve the secret ballot, which is the primary objection to it, but they will stack the deck in favor of the unions by removing the required 42-day waiting period. This six-week time allows workers to hear both sides of the argument and talk to each other about it. Workers will be denied the time to sift through the rhetoric as they search for the truth. In fact, it may reduce or even eliminate the employees’ opportunity to hear from the company. If the public’s right to vote for elected officials by secret ballot were taken away, there would rightfully be an outcry that our freedoms were being eliminated. The outcry over card check should be similarly loud and clear. IH