Cur­tains for union co­er­cion

The Em­ployee Rights Act would re­vive fair elec­tions for la­bor rep­re­sen­ta­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Richard Ber­man Richard Ber­man is the pres­i­dent of Ber­man and Com­pany, a pub­lic re­la­tions firm in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

In 1947 or­ga­nized la­bor spent to­day’s equiv­a­lent of $11 mil­lion op­pos­ing the Slave La­bor Act. The act is bet­ter known to­day as Taft-Hart­ley. De­spite the union’s rant, it was de­signed to pro­vide pro­tec­tion against abu­sive and often vi­o­lent la­bor unions. Now on the 70th an­niver­sary of that law, Congress is again poised to re­align em­ploy­ment re­la­tion­ships free from co­er­cive union pres­sures.

Last week, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives held their first pub­lic hear­ing on the Em­ployee Rights Act (ERA). Con­trary to the union im­agery of slavery, to­day we have polling. And the ORC polls over the last three years con­sis­tently show that em­ploy­ees are re­ject­ing union in­tim­i­da­tion. The ERA has mul­ti­ple pro­vi­sions which in­de­pen­dently pivot around 80 per­cent ap­proval with Democrats and union house­holds.

Un­der cur­rent law it is not a ma­jor­ity of those af­fected who will de­ter­mine if a union is es­tab­lished but a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of those vot­ing. The ERA re­turns the vot­ing stan­dard to an ear­lier la­bor law that re­quired true ma­jori­ties.

The unions ad­mon­ish that if it took an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity for a mem­ber of Congress to be elected, then no one would gain of­fice. But that is why the Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity. We have to fill those seats for gov­ern­ment to work. In a read­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion, though, there is no men­tion of the AFL-CIO. With only 7 per­cent of the non­govern­ment work­force in a union, it’s ap­par­ent these groups are not re­quired for our coun­try to func­tion.

But af­ter mak­ing that high-minded case for align­ment with Congress on vot­ing in elec­tions, the unions seek dis­tance from any other com­par­i­son. They have fought for the right to avoid se­cret bal­lots in­stead get­ting their ma­jor­ity sta­tus from pub­licly signed au­tho­riza­tion cards. Why dis­miss se­cret bal­lot elec­tions?

Be­cause the con­fronta­tional pub­lic card sign­ing al­ter­na­tive is the more re­li­able process for get­ting ma­jor­ity au­tho­riza­tion.

Unions how­ever, are aware that pub­licly signed cards are not re­li­able ex­pres­sions of sup­port. The re­veal is that la­bor or­ga­niz­ers are trained to col­lect far more signed cards than they need to win be­fore seek­ing an elec­tion. And some­times they still lose. Elec­tions are to be avoided when­ever pos­si­ble. To­day, em­ploy­ees are pushed into unions with­out a se­cret bal­lot vote 40 per­cent of the time.

Want more in­con­sis­tency? In the union-fa­vored card sign­ing “elec­tion,” unions have agreed to a 51 per­cent thresh­old for signed card sup­port by all af­fected em­ploy­ees. (Some em­ploy­ers ac­cept the cards to avoid a nasty elec­tion cam­paign). Why not agree to the same true 51 per­cent ma­jor­ity of all af­fected em­ploy­ees in a real elec­tion?

The rea­son is that pesky is­sue of voter ed­u­ca­tion. Con­gres­sional elec­tion cam­paigns take place over many months while vot­ers lis­ten to the can­di­dates. Vot­ers dis­cuss po­si­tions and prom­ises with their peers. Union in­ter­est in that ex­tended cam­paign idea is de­cid­edly cool. As Joe Hansen, for­mer pres­i­dent of the United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers lamented, “We can’t win that way anymore.”

The unions are try­ing to pro­tect a cur­rent sys­tem of shock and awe where the en­tire process plays out in less than a month. Yet a pro­posal that may re­quire giv­ing up your rights and money to peo­ple you prob­a­bly never met ought to pro­vide at least 90 days for peo­ple to con­sider, re­flect and dis­cuss.

Want an­other wrin­kle in the se­lected union com­par­i­son to con­gres­sional elec­tions? Those votes take place every two years. Cur­rently, less than 10 per­cent of union mem­bers ever voted for the peo­ple col­lect­ing their dues. And fail­ure to pay that money will re­sult in your be­ing fired. If Congress has to be re­cer­ti­fied every two years, it seems that the unions would em­brace the same con­cept of sched­uled re-elec­tions to pro­vide real choice to their mem­bers with­out any other bur­den to sched­ule a vote.

You see where this is go­ing? De­spite the slave rhetoric, unions have be­come the masters with the real power over their mem­bers. The ERA is not anti-union. It is pro-em­ployee. The main ob­jec­tive is an over­due trans­fer of power within unions from the en­trenched lead­er­ship to their mem­bers who are pay­ing the freight.

The ERA does not at­tack col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing or fair elec­tions. So when you hear union lead­ers twist ar­gu­ments and tor­ture facts to sup­port their claim that this is an­other Slave La­bor Act, con­sider the source.

If Congress has to be re­cer­ti­fied every two years, it seems that the unions would em­brace the same con­cept.

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