Misc Mondays: Biden Addresses AFL-CIO Bigs

Earlier in the Month, VP Biden addressed the top brass of the AFL-CIO at their annual convention in Miami, Florida.  By the way, at a time when the unions are crying foul on of big business owners and CEOs, that meeting was held at the ultra-luxurious, five-star, Fontainebluea Resort.  But I digress.  According to FoxNews, the VP decided to ban cameras from filming his speech.  Uh, wait, the next day, the AFL-CIO recanted that statement and said it was actually the union that did not want the speech filmed.  Whatever.  What’s more important is that some print reporters were allowed to attend and a transcript was made of the speech.  Here is the whole transcript.  Below are some worthy snippets:

  • The best place for me to be my whole career is surrounded by organized labor.  And I know how to say “union.”
  • An old joke, Mr. President [of the union], you know, you go home with them that bring you to the dance.  Well, you all brought me to the dance a long time ago.  And it’s time we start dancing, man.  It’s time we start dancing.
  • It’s just not right, it’s just not right, and everybody knows it – it’s just not right when the average CEO makes $10,000 more every day – $10,000 more every day than what the average worker makes every year – $10,000 per day.  And by the way, before I said it, I did the math, I did the math, and it’s literally true.
  • The NLRB explicitly says – and that came later – the NLRB explicitly says, this nation’s policy is to encourage – encourage – collective bargaining, encourage unions.
  • What is news here is you now have an American President and Vice President, and the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader who agree with everything John Sweeney [union president] said.
  • Some of you guys were there when the Middle Class Task Force was announced.  I said “welcome back to the White House, let me tell you something: I think John [Sweeney], you’ve been back every week.
  • We will judge the success or failure of our administration at the end of our four years based on whether or not the standard of living of the middle class has increased, or not.  That’s the bottom line measure.  And guess what.  Neither one of us believe it can get better without you getting stronger.
  • Even when our economy felt like it was on solid footing over the last – you know, during the ’80s and ’90s and through the first part of 2000, even when we were on solid – when the economy was growing, the middle class was slipping – middle class was slipping.
  • We’ve only been in office about a  month.  The first bill to pass, Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  What happened then?  We named a Secretary of Labor – who I guess came down and spoke to you all.  We named a Secretary of Labor who is a daughter of union members, not the darling of union busters.  A little change over the first executive orders, first version in the past eight years, and making it clear we want to see a project labor agreement on federal construction projects.  Second order: making sure that taxpayer dollars go to something other than union-busting activities.
  • On the Employee Free Choice Act, folks, let’s get it straight – we’re not asking – we’re not asking for anything we don’t deserve.  And we’re not asking for anything that wasn’t intended when the NLRB said we should be encouraging – encouraging – unions.  We just want to level this playing field again.
  • If a union is what you want, a union you’re entitled to have.

Of course I have some problems with what he said.

First – the average CEO does not make $10,000 per day.  The averageCEO employs less than 100 people and makes a fraction of $10,000 per day.  The $10,000 per day figure is bantered around by unions all the time now.  The CEO of Bank of America made that much one year.  And now that number is the “average” of what CEOs make. 

Second – the Obama Administration has just went on record to say that it will judge the success or failure of its administration on whether the standard of living of the middle class increased.  Not whether the United States remains a superpower.  Not whether the Middle East is secure.  Not whether illegal immigration is controlled.  Not whether the stock market has rebounded.  Not whether gas prices have remained stagnant and alternative fuel vehicles are more prevalent.  Not whether education prepares students to compete on a truly global platform.  Not whether the unemployment rate has shrunk – because remember the saying during the Great Depression when unionization ran rampant, a unionized job is a good job, if you can get it.

Third – on the Employee Free Choice act, Biden says we aren’t asking for anything we don’t deserve, and if a union is what you want, a union you’re entitled to have.  Since when do employees deserve unions?  Employees deserve to be treated and paid fairly and have their employers follow the myriad of labor and employment laws already in place to ensure that they are treated and paid fairly.  Likewise, they are entitled to be treated and paid fairly and have their employers follow the myriad of labor and employment laws already in place to ensure that they are treated and paid fairly.  Biden lets the cat out of the bag – union members believe they deserve and are entitled to outrageous demands simply for being an employee.

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Paycheck Fairness Act

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in March 2007 by Sen. Hilary Clinton and Rep. Rosa DeLauro to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to offer stronger protection for employees against compensation discrimination on the basis of sex.  Rep. LeDauro, D-Conn. first introduced this legislation 12 years ago, but now is the time it will become law. 

 

Currently, employers can avoid liability if they prove that the alleged discrimination comparison was a result of any factor other than sex.  The Paycheck Fairness Act limits this defense to situations where the factors other than sex are job-related or serve a legitimate business interest. 

 

The act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employee who share salary information, but this is prohibited, anyway by the National Labor Relations Act.

 

The Paycheck Fairness Act also increases civil penalties against employers who violate it, makes it easier to bring class actions, and authorizes the Secretary of Labor to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages.  This authorization is similar to the Working Families Flexibility Act (aka “union of one law”) permitting the Labor Secretary to impose additional penalties for not negotiating with a single employee over the terms and conditions of that employee’s job.

 

Like the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced to Congress last year.  The Act, again like the Fair Pay Act, passed in the House of Representatives but did not pass the Senate.  With Democrats padding their seats in Congress, both Acts should sail through Congress this time and reach Obama’s desk soon after he enters the White House, and of course, Obama has embraced both Acts.

 

According to the AP, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “very excited” about leading off the new Congress with labor rights issues.  And “the early foray into labor rights issues is a prelude to what could be the most controversial bill that Congress tackles in the first year of the Obama administration – legislation to take away the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections by workers before unions could be recognized.”

Voting on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Voting on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was set to occur on Wednesday, but is now going to happen on Friday of this week.  Most followers of this legislation view it, along with the Paycheck Fairness Act (which will also be voted on on Friday), to be warm-up votes to the Employee Free Choice Act.

 

To recap, Lilly Ledbetter worked at an Alabama Goodyear tire plant for nearly 20 years before learning that she was not paid as much as men performing her job duties and won $3.8 million for the apparent discriminatory pay.  But, the United States Supreme Court overruled the lower court and held that as the law is currently written, minorities have 180 days from the time their employer began paying them less than their counterparts in order to sue.  Since Ms. Ledbetter waited 20 years to sue, she was precluded from recovering money for the alleged disparate pay practices.

 

Tomorrow the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (and the Paycheck Fairness Act which I will write about over the weekend).  The bill was voted on last year, too, and went the way EFCA votes went: passed in the House of Representatives, but died in the Senate.  That was last year.  Now there are enough Democrats in Senate to prevent the Republicans from blocking this bill as well as the other pro-labor bills like EFCA, the RESPECT Act, the Patriot Employer Act, and the Flexible Working Families Act.

 

Both the Fair Pay Act (and the Paycheck Fairness Act) are touted as gender equity laws, but that is a misnomer – just like how there is no choice in the Employee Free Choice Act.  Liberals use an often quoted but rarely defined statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  As stated by Allison Kasic:

 

This statistic compares the wages of the median full-time working man and the median full-time working woman.  It tells us nothing about the existence or non-existence of wage discrimination.  The wage gap ignores a myriad of other relevant factors including education level, years in the workforce, and type of occupation.  Once these other factors are taken into account, the wage gap shrinks.

The fall out of this legislation is enormous.  Ms. Kasic correctly states that the Fair Pay Act would allow a former employee – from 40 years ago – bring a lawsuit against a company long after that employee has moved on from the company.  Likewise, Drew Greenblatt the owner of Marlin Steel Wire Products, a small business that makes wire baskets, is scared that his employment insurance premiums will increase as a result of the myriad of unknown lawsuits that could be asserted decades later.  Without a doubt, the passage of this will make the cost of doing business increase exponentially.

 

Of course I will update you on both the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act after Congress votes.