Wednesday, August 27, 2008

StarTribune: EFCA "doesn't make sense" 

The editorial page of the Minneapolis StarTribune weighs in on the debate over "card check":
That pitched national battle is why the issue is at the forefront of Minnesota�s Senate race. The Senate holds the key to EFCA�s future. Democratic contender Al Franken supports EFCA; Republican Norm Coleman does not. Both labor and business have pledged millions for their cause, with some of that well-funded battle resulting in the local ads. ...

But the EFCA has the potential to do more harm than good. Its provision allowing unions to bypass a secret ballot with something called a card check is a serious problem. Under the proposed law, unions could bypass a secret ballot if 50 percent of eligible employees signed an authorization form to form a union. It doesn�t make sense: Would you pass a school levy or elect a mayor this way? The proposed card-check system also would invite peer-pressure from union sympathizers and, by making a supporter�s name public, it has the potential to heighten the risk of employer retaliation.

The bill�s stiffer penalties for employers who retaliate illegally are welcome. But backers need to rethink the proposed card check. Even if you agree there�s an imbalance of power, doing away with the secret ballot isn�t the solution. Unions exert a great deal of influence over members. They have the ability to tax through dues. They negotiate workplace rules that govern a big chunk of members� lives. The organizing process should be as democratic as possible. That means honoring the secret ballot, not doing away with it.

Don't expect that, though, for the Wall Street Journal has shown that Big Labor is staking millions on getting it passed. Democrats believe that more union workers means more Democratic votes (as if correlation is causation). The editorial board at WSJ asks a broader question:

The question for Americans more broadly is whether a return to widespread unionization is really the way to raise middle-class incomes. The case for card check is that, amid global competition, the balance of organizing power has shifted to business. Giving unions more power will redress this imbalance and let workers grab a higher share of corporate profits.

But this claim is highly suspect, given the record in autos, steel and the rest of unionized American manufacturing. The only sector of the U.S. auto industry that is prospering is the part not organized by the United Auto Workers. Likewise, Europe, with its high jobless rates and slow growth, argues against unionization as a way to lift middle-class incomes. To the extent a country like Germany has modestly reversed some of this, it has been the result of recent labor-law reforms and labor concessions.

I pointed out in a letter to the editorial board at the StarTribune, in response to a request for comments, that its belief that the pendulum has swung to employers was not really accurate in a world where unions continue to win a majority of certification votes (sources here and here.) What win percentage for unions would you think is correct, if 55% is too few?

Like a sports team owner trying to buy a championship, the unions are trying to buy 100%.

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