Card check: A flawed plan for Colorado workers

By Chuck Berry

As we move past Colorado’s primary election and begin the push to November, it’s clear that one of the defining issues for business — and for candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives — is the misleadingly named “Employee Free Choice Act.” With the president and some key Congressional leaders publicly vowing to organized labor that card check will become law, it’s vital for employers, workers and taxpayers to pay close attention to the threat this legislation poses.

It is expected to be taken up by the Senate this fall.

If any member of Congress ever stood up and suggested that we do away with the right to vote by secret ballot for public offices, their political career would be over. Yet, for Colorado workers, that is exactly one of the key provisions of EFCA when it comes to union-organizing elections.

Many opponents of this proposal choose to call EFCA the Employee “Forced” Choice Act and with good reason. It would radically change the way workplaces are organized by allowing unionization to take place based only on signatures gathered on a petition. This would happen in plain view of the organizers, opening the process up to peer pressure and intimidation.

Under the labor law we’ve had in place for many years, after a sufficient number of workers have asked for a union, the employers has the right to call for a vote by secret ballot, the process Americans have used to make important decisions since this country’s founding.

Obviously, there are a lot of reasons the present system makes sense. Unionization is not right for every business, and even workers who have nothing against unions in general could feel that their company – and their job – would not benefit from a union presence.

But, for many workers, it’s hard to say that to someone you’ve worked side-by-side with for the last 20 years who is adamantly in favor of a union. Without the opportunity to express their opinion in private, many employees would be trapped into supporting a union plan that they honestly believe to be a bad idea.

The fact is that the central beneficiaries of card check are not going to be average workers, but rather union bosses.  It’s easy to understand why big labor has this at the top of its checklist – and will push for card check to be passed in the dead of night in the halls of Congress if they have to.

First is the new revenue for unions.  Studies have been produced that estimate card check would increase union revenue by an estimated $35 billion over 10 years. That’s money right out of workers’ pockets and into union coffers.

Unions don’t have the same power they had years ago. In the 1950s, 30 percent of private-sector workplaces were unionized. Today it’s about 8 percent nationwide and less than that in Colorado. If union bosses want to keep those dues coming in, they need something like card check.

Forcing employees into a union is only the first thing card check would do. Other provisions of the EFCA would mandate government arbitration between companies and organized labor when an initial contract agreement isn’t reached in only 120 days.

Such negotiations frequently take longer than that but, if card check becomes law, government bureaucrats who may have little or no familiarity with a business will be put in charge of making extremely significant decisions affecting companies, workers and even our entire economy.

Polls show that 75 percent of American voters don’t believe government arbitrators should decide the conditions of union contracts. Yet that’s the way it would be under EFCA.

This plan could not come at a worse time for Colorado’s economy or the country as a whole. Even though there are glimmers here and there of economic recovery, unemployment is still unacceptably high. Card check would only make things worse.

EFCA would be a bad deal for employers, workers and job seekers, and the only people who would truly benefit would be labor leaders and their political allies. As summer winds down, and the election season heats up, it’s vital that voters learn about card check and ask candidates in both parties where they stand on this key economic issue.

Chuck Berry, is president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.


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