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'Card check' would stifle recovery

Our View: Labor unions

Posted: February 7, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: February 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
With so many businesses going bust, workers losing their jobs and families losing their homes, it's dumbfounding to think Congress would give so much as a passing glance at legislation that would shutter even more small businesses and kill even more American jobs.

That's just what Big Labor puppet Hilda Solis and her Democratic colleagues would do with Ted Kennedy's so-called "Employee Free Choice Act," otherwise known as "card check."

President Obama knows deep down it's the wrong medicine for what ails us. That's why he isn't out front fighting for it, to the dismay of the labor bosses.

Obama says he'll sign it if it crosses his desk - but nobody really expects it to get out of the Senate.

And it shouldn't. It isn't about "free choice." It's about restoring the power and influence of organized labor to the glory years of decades past, at the expense of a fundamental American right: the right of workers to decide for themselves whether to unionize - in secret and free from intimidation.

There are reasons union ranks have shrunk dramatically since the 1970s, and it's not because workers have been prevented from joining. It's because our society and our economics have changed.

The change we needed, and made on Nov. 4, is just one manifestation of the degree to which we've changed. By and large, workers are no longer treated as mere fungibles to be added or subtracted, as they were during the Industrial Revolution. We've grown a bit since then.

We've outsourced most of our sweatshops. Entrepreneurial, high-tech businesses are the engines of our economy. Workers are valuable, contributing members of any healthy enterprise.

Of course there are exceptions, and unionization is a viable option under the National Labor Relations Act.

We saw it in 1999, when the nurses at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital voted to join the California Nurses Association.

A group of nurses went to the CNA asking for representation. The CNA filed the necessary paperwork to hold an election and the game was afoot. Under the law, nobody could stop it - neither the hospital administration nor any opposing nurses.

The date for the election came and a majority of the nurses voted "yes." They did so by secret ballot.

Anybody could try to influence them prior to the election, but when they cast their vote, the decision was theirs alone. Nobody was looking over their shoulders when they marked their ballots, and nobody could judge them after the fact.

It was secret and sacrosanct, just like your vote on Nov. 4. You can say you voted one way or the other, but you're the only one who really knows.

"Card check" would strip workers of that basic right. It would allow a union official to enter a workplace and persuade employees to sign a card authorizing the union to represent them.

They wouldn't be able to change their minds, and if a majority of the employees signed, there would be no election; the union would be in.

Big Labor wants you to think that's a fair process, and that union reps would never pressure anybody into signing. Simply ask yourself: Are you more intimidated when discussing your vote with someone else, or when you enter the polling booth and cast your ballot when no one is watching?

That's not all. If the management and the union can't agree after 120 days of collective bargaining, the "card check" legislation requires binding arbitration. It gives the government the unprecedented authority to come in and dictate wage levels and working conditions, and everyone is stuck with them for two years.

What happens in the meantime? Stellar employees can't be rewarded with merit pay if the arbitration panel hasn't allowed it, and businesses can't plan for growth while they're waiting for the government to make a decision about their business operations.

"Card check" would stifle the economic recovery, drive more high-tech jobs to India and prompt the few factories we have left to move to China.

Maybe our valued workers can be retrained as ditch-diggers to build those $825 billion worth of roads and bridges in the stimulus bill. At least the government won't be checking for union cards.

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