WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 11, 2009 -
The so-called Employee Free Choice Act has come under increasing fire in recent weeks, and those taking aim might not be who you expect.
Although card check is often painted in partisan terms, the reality is that an increasing number of Democrats are joining Republicans in speaking out against this anti-worker legislation. It turns out that there are members of both political parties who support basic workplace democracy, and that’s why they’re understandably wary of a bill that would take away the secret ballot and empower federal bureaucrats – not workers, union reps, or business owners – to set the terms of a contract.
Today’s Orlando Sentinel carries an interesting analysis from business columnist Beth Kassab highlighting the stance of local Democrats who oppose the controversial legislation:
“There is a growing roster of Democrats coming out against the White House-backed card check legislation, and now Orlando has its own political A-listers following suit.
“Roger Chapin and Joe Kefauver recently formed an advocacy group called Floridians for Responsible Policy (Floridiansforresponsiblepolicy.com), which will take on the bill that pits business against labor as item No. 1 on its agenda.
“Chapin and Kefauver, both longtime Democrats who voted for Barack Obama for president and contributed to Democratic candidates, say the Employee Free Choice Act is bad for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost it represents an ‘over-reaching’ by their party. …
“Kefauver, who runs the public affairs consulting company Edgewater Group, said supporting labor shouldn't be the only ‘litmus test for being a good Democrat.’
‘We're talking about what's good, what's fair for the worker,’ he said. ‘That piece of the issue is getting lost in all this.’”
This follows publication last week of a high-profile opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in which former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern rejects the bill’s provision to impose forced government contracts, whereby business owners and workers lose the right to negotiate wages, benefits, and work rules if they cannot reach agreement within a short bargaining window of just 120 days:
“Many labor contracts can run over 100 pages with their requirements of each party. Compulsory arbitration is, in one sense, government dictating to employees what they will win or lose in the deal, with no opportunity to approve the ‘agreement.’ Why should employees pay union dues to get such a contract?
“My perspective on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act is informed by life experience. After leaving the Senate in 1981, I spent some time running a hotel. It was an eye-opening introduction to something most business operators are all-too familiar with -- the difficulty of controlling costs and setting prices in a weak economy. Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings.
“When it comes to labor disputes, both parties should be guaranteed a real chance for compromise under the joint economic threat of contract breakdowns. George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1979, had it right in condemning mandatory arbitration as ‘an abrogation of freedom.’”
Of course, Democratic Senator Ben Nelson may have put it most succinctly last week when he called the notion of a compromise on this divisive legislation “a fool’s errand:”
“‘You take away the arbitration issue, and you still have the ‘card check’, so that doesn’t work. You take away the ‘card check’ and you still have the arbitration problem. And if both go away, you’re left with nothing. It’s a fool’s errand to do this. I just don’t see an agreement happening,’ Nelson said.”
Card check: bad for workers, bad for job creation, and just plain bad for democracy.
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