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EFCA and Health Care Reform

If at first your bill doesn’t succeed on Capitol Hill, try hiding your agenda in another one.

That seems to be the new strategy for supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act as their bill slowly dies on Capitol Hill. Instead of pushing for EFCA’s passage, they are now secretly slipping key special-interest items into the massive health care reform legislation.

Houston labor lawyer A. Kevin Troutman noted these sneaky moves in a recent essay for the Houston Chronicle and offers details here:

“When the public recognized that the Employee Free Choice Act (the card check bill) was not a good idea, labor leaders turned to some old-fashioned misdirection tactics. While higher-profile aspects of health care reform drew attention, pro-union legislators slipped a variety of big benefits for labor into the proposed legislation. Quietly tucked among the proposals’ thousands of pages, these provisions have avoided much scrutiny.

“One provision epitomizes the nature of this ploy. According to research firms, unions are woefully short of funds to pay their retirees’ anticipated insurance claims. Thus, under the House resolution, union leaders who have mismanaged these plans for their members could receive up to $10 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout money, innocuously referred to as a ‘reinsurance program.’

“Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

“Under the proposed public option, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius would wield tremendous discretionary authority to regulate participating health care workers. She and various federal panels, where the unions would have guaranteed seats, would take the lead in recommending health care policy. Thus, labor would have considerable influence over decisions affecting most doctors, nurses and patients.

“The House resolution establishes a scenario that would effectively exclude non-union employers from eligibility to work on program-funded contracts. It also requires participating health care providers to pay wages and benefits that have been collectively bargained or that union-friendly appointees determine are competitive. This is plainly a move toward coerced unionization. With guaranteed seats at the table, unions are poised to control many newly formed oversight posts and/or committees, formed in connection with new employer mandates and cooperative health care associations.

“Yet another provision would establish lucrative state training partnerships that contain little or no opportunities for non-union employee organizations. Provisions in Senate proposals would exempt union-negotiated health care plans from taxes on ‘Cadillac’ health plans.”

Troutman, “Goodies for labor tucked away in health bill,” Houston Chronicle, 11.13.09

It says a lot about how beneficial their ideas are when EFCA supporters have to hide them in proposed legislation that’s thousands of pages long. There are manymany reasons why EFCA should not become law. Now some of those reasons can be added to the health care debate as well.