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.


Minority Labor Unions Are Coming

Based on the make-up of Congress, it appears that EFCA is going to pass and will become law sometime in 2009.  If for some reason – a reason I cannot fathom – EFCA does not become law, it does not mean that employers are in the clear from forced unionization.


Towards the end of 2007 there were more Republicans in office and it was apparent that EFCA would succumb to the Republican’s filibuster and not pass.  At that time, organized labor began an initiative of alternative ways of organizing workers – through minority unions.


Steelworkers and auto workers were first minority unions at several companies and then gained contracts that helped persuade other workers to organize as part of a company-wide union.  This is analogous to a union being in one location or one store of a company and then spreading to the other locations until the whole company is unionized.


Seven unions (USW, UAW, IBEW, CWA, UE, and the CAN) petitioned the NLRB to require private-sector employers to negotiate with union members even though the union had the support of only a minority of the employees.  Clearly, this was a last-ditch effort to do an end-around to the failing EFCA legislation.


The unions wanted the NLRB to adopt the following rule despite knowing that it would not likely pass under the current Bush NLRB:


Pursuant to Section 7, 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the Act, in workplaces where employees are not currently represented by a certified or recognized Section 9(a) majority/exclusive collective-bargaining representative in an appropriate bargaining unit, the employer, upon request, has a duty to bargain collectively with a labor organization that represents less than an employee-majority with regard to the employees who are its members, but not for other employees.


According to the chief organizer for the steelworkers, “Our hope is that there will be a more pro-worker administration in place” and under that administration (appointed by a Democratic President), it will pass.


The Obama NLRB will likely ensure that minority unions have the opportunity to exist and thrive.  Coupling minority unions with EFCA and the anticipated “union of one” law, every single employee will be eligible to be represented by his or her own union of choice even though they are employed by the same company and perform the same job.

Obama’s Pro-Union Labor Secretary


Happy New Year – or should I say for you business owners – Weary New Year?


Those of us following the prospective labor and employment law changes that will likely occur under President Obama have been waiting for him to announce his Labor Secretary.  He announced it about a week or ten days ago – and then the Holidays happened and I am just now getting around to blogging about it.  Although I am a couple days behind the news, I haven’t seen much coverage about the appointment, so hopefully this will still educate some of you.


Obama named Hilda Solis, a Director of the pro-union lobbying group, American Rights at Work, and the Democratic representative from East L.A. as his Labor Secretary.  Both of her parents were in unions, the majority of her PAC contributions supposedly came from organized labor, and she enjoys a 97% approval rating from the AFL-CIO.  Oh – and she co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act.


In case you’re still one of those people in denial that the labor laws of this country will be rewritten in 2009, when introducing Solis, Obama stated, “I know that Hilda will show the same kind of leadership as Secretary of Labor that she showed in California and on the Education and Labor Committee by protecting workers’ rights – from organizing to collective bargaining, from keeping our workplaces safe to making our unions strong.”


Unions are already cozying up to her, as well.  The AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney told the New York Times that he was “thrilled” with her selection.  The SEUI President said, “It’s extraordinary.  On every issue that’s important to us, she has stood up for an America where everyone’s hard work is valued and rewarded.”  The SEUI Secretary-Treasurer followed suit by correctly stating that Solis, “has one of the strongest pro-worker voting records in Congress.”


I am now more confident than ever that my previous posts on this blog, i.e. EFCA, RESPECT Act, Patriot Act, Working Families Act, etc, will become law along with other pro-labor legislation that has not yet been dreamed up.

Working Families Flexibility Act

This Act is also called the “union of one” law because it would require good faith negotiations between the employer and a single employee seeking a change in schedule or location of work.  This Act sets out a process that requires, should the employee’s request be denied, the employer to specify in writing:


          1) the costs to the company in agreeing to the change;

          2) the effect of the change on customer demand; and

          3) the overall financial resources of the company. 


Further mirroring union status, employees are entitled to representation, including an attorney or union official, during these negotiations with management, and penalties against the company for violations of this law start at $1,000 per violation.