Follow Up Fridays: Solis’ Nomination as DOL Secretary

I had no idea that when I first posted about Obama’s pick for Secretary of Labor that I would still be writing about her nomination process.  But last week two things happened which lead me to believe that either she will not be confirmed as the Secretary or we’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the near future.

First, Solis’ husband paid $6400 worth of outstanding tax liens placed on the company he owns.  LawMemo Blog’s expert, Ross Runkel, a 30-year employment law professor thought that this, alone was enough for Solis to withdraw her nomination, or conversely, Obama’s people “will drop Solis and move on to someone else.  The short-term and long-term costs of hanging onto Solis are simply too high.” 

But just hours before the Senate confirmation vote, the other shoe fell on Solis with The Weekly Standard‘s article “The Nominee who Lobbied Herself.”  Solis, who co-sponsored EFCA in 2007 was the treasurer of the union fronted American Rights at Work who had been lobbying Congress to pass EFCA.  In other words, “she is the official legally charged with the fiduciary duty of approving and signing off on all spending by the organization.  And to make matters worse, she did not reveal to her colleagues in the House of Representatives that membership on her financial disclosure forms, which may constitute a separate ethical violation.”  Members of the House of Representatives are not allowed to lobby or advise on lobbying on behalf of a private organization – even if the work is done for free.

“Now [Obama] has a nominee for Labor Secretary who apparently broke House ethics rules by lobbying for legislation that she sponsored, but who did not admit that she failed to reveal that fact on her financial disclosure forms until after her nomination became an issue.”  The Weekly Standard.

Like some of Obama’s other appointees, i.e. Tom Daschle’s $140,000 in back taxes and interest, Tom Geithner’s $42,000 in taxes and interest, and the lien placed on Nancy Killefer’s home for not paying unemployment taxes for her domestic help, Solis forgot to mention her affiliation with American Rights at Work in disclosure forms filed with the House of Representatives from 2004-2007.  In typical fashion, a White House spokesman chalked up the omission as an “unintentional oversight.”

But guess who’s still supporting Solis!  John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President urged the committee to move ahead with a vote as soon as possible to confirm Solis’ nomination and Andy Stern, President of SEIU said, “We urge [the] U.S. Senate to move swiftly in a bipartisan manner so Representative Solis can bring her work to improve lives for millions of workers in America.” 

For now, though, the vote is on hold until her ethical violations are fully explored and a decision whether to continue her nomination process is made – assuming she won’t withdraw her name in the interim.

Follow Up Friday: Stimulus Funds will Blacklist Non-Union Workers

By now we’ve all heard about Obama’s Executive Ordersaimed at pacifying labor until EFCA rolls into town.  Now, any unfair labor practice charges leveled against a contractor – perhaps during a union organizing drive – could be used to bar the contractor from competing for taxpayer-funded federal work.  According to National Right to Work, “Now that union operatives at DOL have the power to blacklist a company from federal contracting simply by lodging a few spurious (even unadjudicated) charges, it’s pretty clear union bosses are in for a massive payday when the “stimulus” bill passes.”

For many years, I have seen first hand how union-filed prevailing wage complaints against non-union contractors cost them locally and state funded work, even if the charge doesn’t have merit or is settled for pennies on the dollar.  Unfortunately, the filling of such charges is a one-way street.  Non-union contractors, for some reason, don’t file charges against union contractors.  Assuming non-union contractors continue to not file charges – whether for prevailing wage violations or unfair labor practice charges for harassment on job sites – only non-union companies will be blacklisted from performing some of the $188 billion worth of federal work currently earmarked in the stimulus package.

Tuesdays are EFCA Update Days

We’ll start off today’s EFCAUpdate with a video where Stern, President of the SEIU, says that his union has saved millions of dollars to unelectDemocrats who did not live up with their promise to vote in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act.

 

When will EFCA be introduced is anyone’s guess, although most agree it will be sometime in 2009.  Obama and Biden think it will be on hold until the fall, and it looks like Obama’s pro-labor executive orderswere an overt act to pacify the unions for several months.  In fact, Biden believes it will be done “This year.  This year we hope.  Our expectation is this year, this calendar year.”  Thank you for your clarity, VP Biden.  House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) says House action won’t start until Spring or Summer.  Senate Majority Reid (D-NV) said that that Senate won’t see it until the Summer.  Here’s a video of Biden discussing EFCA.

 

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplaceconducted a straight forward, two-question survey to determine support levels for EFCA.  The Ohio Employers Law Blog did a great recap of the results indicating that most people do not want EFCA.  Click here to see those results.

Obamatapped New Hampshire Republican Senator Gregg to head the Department of Commerce, which meant his Senate seat needed filled.  We’ve all learned about filling a Senate seat: Blago, anyone?  So, it became a foregone conclusion that Gregg’s seat would be filled by a Democrat, since New Hampshire’s Governor is a Democrat.  Filling Gregg’s seat with a Democrat would put the Dems at the supermajority number of 60 Senators where filibustering legislation (the Republican Senators’ defense to EFCA last time) would be impossible.  Not so fast!  Gregg made sure that his seat would be filled with a Republican before accepting the position with the Dept. of Commerce.  So now, Bonnie Newman – someone who has never held elected office and does not have any official positions on any major issues, i.e. Employee Free Choice Act – will fill Gregg’s seat and presumably vote against EFCA.  Remember, though, even with 59 Republican Senators, EFCA will likely pass since Arlen Spector (R-PA) voted in favor of it last time.

I laughed when I read that the AFL-CIO’s new video (narrated by the executive VP of the union) was intended to “cut through the deceptive campaign and give the facts about the Employee Free Choice Act.”  The video has a cameo spot, too, from the executive director of the union-fronted organization American Rights at Work to “cut through the spin” of corporate America.  This video is supposedly being featured at union meetings and around the country – why are they showing union members how “the system for forming unions is broken.”  Seems like members of unions, who already went through the system be become unionized, wouldn’t necessarily think that the system was broken.  Here’s the video:

 

On the anniversary of the last EFCAattempt, unions symbolically held a rally in Washington D.C. and supposedly brought with them 1.5 million signatures of people who supported the Employee Free Choice Act.  Also present was Rep. George Miller (D-CA) who co-sponsored the last bill and said: “decisions aboutthe workplace belong to the worker.”  Excuse me?  What aboutthe owner?  What aboutthe person who lives, breathes, and sleeps the business; the person who mortgaged his house to start the company; the person who risks to lose everything when the market dried up, a catastrophic injury occurs, malicious Internet press abouthis company surfaces?  Since when should the workers be the ones to make the decisions about someone else’s company, Representative Miller?

Interestingly, 1 million signatures would represent 1/16 of the current total unionized workforce in America.  Conversely, EFCA threatens the right to a secret ballot for 105 million Americans – well beyond the 69 million who voted in the last presidential election.  If the unions could only drum up enough interest from 1 out of every 16 of their own members to sign a petition, I hardly think that EFCA is something that the public at large is interested in seeing passed in Congress.  And I wonder how many of those signatures are from people who do not belong to unions.  No one has (or likely will ever) challenge the purported number of signatures to make sure they are legitimate.  In all, this is just a bunch of propaganda, an advertisement that will not be scrutinized, by 6% of the unionized workforce wanting us to believe that they represent the 105 million people currently working in America.

The AFL-CIO uses some “real life examples” of why employees need unions.  One of them is Theresa Gares who says, “Once [her company] found out we were trying to organize a union, they started having meetings.  They’re trying to talk people out of it, discourage them.  This is what we’re fighting for: We’re fighting for fairness in the workplace, a voice in the workplace, things that we deserve.”  Are you kidding me?  Ms. Gares is the union’s marquee spokesperson and all she has to say is the company “started having meetings.”  And this is the intimidation that unions claim is happening and why employees need EFCA?

LaborPains.org is always good for an entry here each week, and this week doesn’t let us down, either when highlighting who is against EFCA.  Some of the more notable names include: 

  • George McGovern, former senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate
  • Rev. Al Sharton, American Baptist minister, political and civil rights/social justice activist, and radio talk show host
  • Richard Epstein, professor of Law at the University of Chicago who says, “There is simply no legitimate government interest in promoting unionization that justifies a clandestine organizing campaign which denies all speech rights to the union’ adversaries.”
  • Ariella Bernstein, former deputy director of public affairs at FMCS and a field examiner and supervisor at the NLRB who says, “I am a Democrat who has worked at both the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, two agencies that figure prominently in this legislation [Employee Free Choice Act].”

Fox Rothschild’s Employment blog out of Philadelphia set the record straight about the elimination of secret ballots when it said: “The reality is that once Unions are given the option of having the NLRB certify a union immediately upon presentation of at least a majority of union authorization cards signed by a specific unit of employees versus waiting some 40 days, whereby employees become educated during this period, and then having a secret ballot election, Unions ar going to avoid, at all cost, the election route.  I mean, why do you think the Unions’ have placed so much money, time, and effort in seeing that the EFCA passes?  is it because the EFCAcalls for mandatory injunctions?  I think not.  How about the mandatory contract arbitration?  Yeah, could be, but without a certification, there can be no representative or contract for that matter.  So, there is no “misinformation” being spread – just realty, which is that once a “card-check” certification is in place, the secret ballot election may die.”

This former “rank and file” employee enlightens people as to what it’s like to work a union job when he says: “As a young man I was forced to join a union when I was working in a job I dearly loved.  Even with the secret ballot in place, the intimidation by the union and the sycophantsworking with them was tremendous.  Almost immediately upon the union being voted in, the productivity of our work dropped precipitously.  People I had known for years cut the pace of their work activities by 25 to 33%.  I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to slow down – that I worked too hard and too fast.  After a year of this, I resigned my position without a job.  I was ashamed of what was happening to a company I loved.  The owners of this very large business in my home town gave up as well just a few years later and sold the business.”  He went on to discuss the difference of productivity in right to work states, “I once met a gentleman here in Jacksonville that owned a unionized plan in the north and a non-unionized plant in the south and in his words the difference in productivity was start.  He eventually moved all the work to the south and closed the other plant.”

Tuesdays are EFCA Update Days

ALF-CIO alleges that bailout recipients AIG and Bank of America were involved in a conference call for lobbyists and corporations to discuss raising funds to defeat EFCA.  From that, the union is alleging that bailout money was used to plot against Employee Free Choice.

American Rights at Work launched the below television commercial called “The Secret Big Business Doesn’t Want You to Know.”

 

The SEIU’s plan to shorten recover from this down economy is a shortened workweek and less productivity from employees.  Accordingly, an employer who currently offers no paid vacation can offer 3 weeks of paid vacation, approximately a 6%  reduction in work time.  Employers can cut the standard work week from40 hours to 36 hours, a 10% reduction in work hours.  These policies would “bring the US in line with the rest of the world.”  Newsflash to the SEIU – we’re America, not the rest of the world.  The rest of the world looks to us for leadership, protection, and guidance.  Diluting our productivity and companies is not the right solution for a viable, stable economy.

Human Rights Watch, the union-described watchdogs of human rights and the freedom of association, claims that the US is deficient in protecting the freedom to form unions.  Oddly, the HRW’s findings is comprised of the typical union slang: “unfair election procedures that are badly slanted toward employers; the lack of serious penalties for corporate misconduct, including firing workers; and the ability of companies to ignore workers’ choice to bargain collectively.”

Last week a lot of discussion dealt with Obama’s interview with the Washington Post and whether Obama really meant that he is tabling EFCA for some time.  The short answer is he is not tabling EFCA.  The Washington Postonly quoted 28 of the 611 words Obama gave on the matter

In March 2008 MIT Sloan School of Management released the results of a comprehensive study about unionization.  The study’s results concluded that few bargaining units make it from initial petition to a first contract; unfair labor practice charges reduce the chances of getting a contract; unfair labor practice charges reduce the changes of getting to an election; and even after a majority votes for a union, many units fail to get a contract.  What text of the results is slanted with the typical pro-union rhetoric about “the need for EFCA to level the playing field.”  What is not reported, though, is that under the current state of the law, only after an initial petition are companies allowed to openly campaign against unions.  For example, a union will promise an employee a 3% wage increase  if the employee signs an authorization card.  With enough cards signed, a petition is filed.  After the petition is filed, the employee hears that although the union promised him a 3% wage increase, the union does not have the power to do increase wages, and wages for all employees are subject to bargaining and could go up, stay the same, or go down.  In other words, many of the promises given to employees to sign cards are later exposed as not true and employees then decide not to vote for the union.  So, I am not surprised with the small number of bargaining units that make it from the initial petition to a first contract, and the removal of educating the employees about the lack of truth behind all of the union’s promises will be prohibited if EFCA passes.

Watch (well, really listen while watching SEIU photographs) Obama discuss his support for easing the ability to unionize and how business that oppose this notion “won’t get to far” with him.

 

I want to clear up a misunderstanding that was published in a mostly unbiased article in the Boston Globe about the Employee Free Choice Act.  The article says that the National Labor Relations Act lacks any real penalties to punish violators for wrongly terminating union supporters during organizing campaigns beyond making companies rehire those employees and pay them back wages.  This is not true.  With egregious enough violations of labor laws, the National Labor Relations Board has the ability to not hold an election and to order both sides to immediately begin negotiating a contract.  Unfortunately, the Globe’s article recited union propaganda about the weaknesses of the NLRA.

I couldn’t say it any better than this editorial from the Las Vegas Review Journal:  “But in this economic climate, with each week producing a new empty parking lot with plywood on the windows, do the geniuses in Washington really mean to create a situation where business owners already struggling to stay afloat can without warning be handed their “last straw” — a stack of cards adorned with the message, “You’re now a union shop; here are our demands”?

The State of Michigan should support EFCA.  With the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, Michigan would be just as attractive of state as a southern, right to work state would be to house a company.  In 2007, 19.5% of Michigan workers belonged to unions.  Conversely, the following are statistics in unionization for southern states: Alabama = 9.5%; Mississippi = 6.7%; Florida = 5.9%; Texas = 4.7%; Georgia = 4.4%; South Carolina = 4.1%.

Another editorial that took the words right out of my mouth: “If businesses are hurt, so are their workers; When businesses fail, workers lose their jobs.  And when workers aren’t treated well, businesses do not thrive.  The interests of workers and business owners are not in conflict – they coincide.  But it is in the interest of union bosses to foment conflict – it leads to more unions being formed and greater revenue for their coffers;  When workers are forced to declare their allegiance to a union in the open, they are far more subject to intimidation and coercion than when they make this decision in private.  It is no coincidence that, when private-ballot elections are used, fewer workers vote in favor of union than when they are asked to publicly sign a card; Many heavily unionized industries in the Midwest have been declining for decades.  Businesses in Florida and other Southern states, where unions have not been as strong, have been thriving during this time.”

Because unions are not democratic, they’re socialistic, a poll of 1000 likely voters with a subsample of 400 union households, results show that most people oppose EFCA

  • Three out of four voters (74%) oppose the “The Employee Free Choice Act.” Union households also strongly oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, 74% oppose to only 20% support.
  • When given a more detailed description of the Employee Free Choice Act, nearly 9 out of 10 voters, 86%, feel the process should remain private and only 8% feel it should be public information. Again, even union workers feel strongly that the process should be kept private, as 88% said private and only 8% said public.
  • Four out of five voters, or 82%, favor having a federally supervised election as a means to “protect the individual rights of workers.” The voters clearly see this as a basic right, especially given that only 11% of voters feel the card check would be the best way to protect the individual rights of workers. Support increases to 85% among union households.
  • The majority (52% to 26%) of American voters believe that the Employee Free Choice Act is not good for job creation. Even among union households, the plurality (48%) believes that the Employee Free Choice Act will cost America jobs.
  • In the current economic climate, 52% of voters are particularly opposed to any measure that would risk jobs or job growth.
  • Further exemplifying the electorates’ distaste for the Employee Free Choice Act, 71% agreed that this legislation would be “unwise” and “risky.” In today’s economic climate, the electorate has little confidence in the federal government’s ability to make such major business decisions.
  • The National Right to Work Act was introduced last week in an effort to remove compulsory unionism.  In other words, every state in America would be like the south – right to work states where employees have the choice to join a union or not.  Here is a video of Senator DeMint (R-SC):

     

    When speaking about a potential Card Check Compromise, Sen. DeMint said, Democrats could, “go out with a secret ballot and be magnanimous and withdraw it.  Then some Republicans may breathe a sigh of relief and vote for arbitration,” which “could actually be worse in the way it slows decision making” because arbitration rulings (in Michigan) take on average 15 months to be rendered.

    In another South Carolina entry today, an entrepreneur/legislator, State Rep. Eric M. Bedingfield wrote, “I recently introduced a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right of workers to a secret ballot in union-organizing election (H3305).

    Lew Ebert, the President and CEO of North Carolina Chamber reminds us that “Congress replaced the card check system with secret-ballot elections in 1947 after workers were coerced, intimidated, and in many instances beaten up and forced to join labor organization against their will.  Yet, 60 years later, we find Congress poised to deliver back to unions the same substandard system that exploited workers and proved grossly ineffective.”  Thank you to the Carolinas for helping us fight the battle against forced unionization!

    Another entreprenuer speaks about the damaging effects of EFCA.  “Small businesses already are near the breaking point as they try to cope with the crippling credit crunch, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and paralyzing recession.  Meanwhile, organized labor is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaigns.”

    Here’s another entrepreneur’s viewpoint of how EFCA will kill small businesses:  “In fiscal year 2005, more than 20 percent of elections conducted by the NLRB involved bargaining units of 10 employees or fewer, while a full 70 percent involved bargaining units of 50 employees or fewer.”  He recently asked a business owner with 24 employees what he would do if overnight he was told he became unionized, and the response was “shut down shortly thereafter.”  This is a typical response.  Unfortunately, the NLRB has the right and power to force a company to re-open, rehire all employees, pay them back wages, and continue operating as a unionized company for as long as the NLRB feels is appropriate.  Companies cannot simply shut down and start another company as a non-union company.

    Thanks to LaborPains.org for this information:  American Rights at Work opined that “from 2000 to 2007, income for the median working-age household actually dropped $2,000 after inflation.”  According to LaborPains.org, “This is nothing new.  There are these events called recessions – ever heard of them.  Besides this period, there was also medial income stagnation from 53-54, 57-58, 70-71, 73-77, 79-85, and 89-93.  Notice that many of these years are the “good old days” of unions. . . The study finishes off with the usual: everyone wants to join a union but can’t because of intimidation according to (union-funded) research.  Nothing new to read here.”  Thanks for the detail, and for the sarcasm LaborPain.org!

    The AFL-CIO headlines: “Union Membership Grows in 2008. When People Can Join Unions, They Do.”  In fact, membership grew for the second straight year in a row.  So, I ask, why do unions need EFCA?  If unions win 60% of their elections, and their membership has grown the last two years, why is Obama, Democrat Congressmen, and Labor Unions all crying that our country needs to ease the ability for employees to unionize?

    I’ll end today’s EFCA Update on a sour note.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the increase in unionized workers in 2007 and 2008 “demonstrates that workers see unions, and higher job standards, benefits, and protections they provide, as a key solution in this struggling economy.”  I don’t see that.  The economy (other than home sales) wasn’t necessarily struggling in 2007 and there weren’t the mass layoffs in 2007 or 2008 that there are now.  The Bureau continues, “The uptick further points to the strengths of unionized workplaces – where labor and management work together as a team, they are able to tackle challenges and better withstand an economic downturn.”  Really?  Ever heard of the Big Three?  What about Boeing’s strike that resulted in 10,000 employees being laid off?  Or the 22,000 UAW represented employees that Caterpillar is laying off?  The list continues, but my point has been made.  My last bones to pick with the Bureau is its claim that “25 percent [of employers] even fire pro-union workers organizing campaigns.”  Where does that stat come from?  Oh wait, it’s not the BLS reporting that, it’s fancy writing from the labor-fronted American Rights at Work to sound like it’s the government reporting that!

    Misc. Mondays: Union Leader Jailed for $250K Kickback Scheme

    Kenneth Campbell, business agent for Local 825 of the Operating Engineers, who admitted to taking more than $250,000 in kickbacks and spending workers’ money on televisions for himself and a Lincoln Town Car for his father, was sentenced  to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison for his bribery scheme.  About $150,000 of the kickbacks came from payoffs from plumbing, backhoe, structural steel, and window contractors during the construction of the Goldman Sachs office tower – which means he “allowed” those trades to work on the job if they paid him.  The remaining $100,000 of bribe money came from George Coyne whose company was building a golf course in Jersey City; Mr. Coyne pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in December 2008.

    Unions Will Not Get Us Out of this Recession

    Economist Paul Krugman wrote an open letter to President Obama explaining how the country needs the Employee Free Choice Act and unionization throughout America in order to get out of the recession we are currently in.  Although Mr. Krugman is a Nobel-prize laureate in Economics and a professor at Princeton University, he is wrong on this one.  First, Mr. Krugman is a columnist for the New York Times, and as I’ve said before, the New York Times supports EFCA.  So, no biggie that Mr. Krugman does too.  But, his errors go deeper than that.

    The basis of Krugman’s argument is that the “U.S. economy needs to add more than a million jobs a year just to keep up with a growing population, and as of today, we’re continuing to lose jobs at a rate of half a million a month.”  There’s no arguing with the number of jobs we’re losing, but I can’t find any support for the fact that we need to add a million jobs a year.  Even if this is true, the rest of his theory is where he loses his argument.

    Krugman looks at lessons from the FDR administration (like so many others are these days) during its successful attempt at navigating the U.S. through the Great Depression in the 1930’s, and noted that FDR was very bold on his job creation plans.  Otherwise, according to Krugman, the economy turns to a vicious cycle: cutbacks on spending lead to a “shortfall in demand,” which leads to a fall in employment, and the spiral continues.  What isn’t included in Krugman’s analysis is that the United States of America was in a depression or stagnant growth economy until World War II when factories were buildingmilitary equipment at record paces – a period in time called the Great Compression.  Certainly Mr. Krugman isn’t opining that Obama continues to find wars to wage until we’re out of this recession.

    Krugman then opines that the Great Compression was reversed starting in the 1970’s, “as American workers once again lost much of their bargaining power,” and “we can create another Great Compression by enhancing worker’s rights.”

    In all, Krugman sees a direct correlation to labor unions rise in the 1930’s and decline beginning in the 1970’s and or economy.  Sort of like, “as unionization goes, the economy goes.”  Wrong. 

    The 1930’s is when the National Labor Relations Act was developed and at that time it provided much needed protections for workers.  But since then, our country has civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment, we have OSHA laws that make workplaces safe, we have workers compensation laws for when employees get injured on the job, we have mandatory wage laws requiring a minimum wage and overtime after 40 hours for most employees, we have the availability of 401Ks which have solved the problem with drastically underfunded union pension plans, and the list goes on.

    And I also disagree with Krugman’s implicit message that prior to 1970s the individual worker had a higher standard of living.  Differences I come up with off the top of my head which lead me to conclude that today’s workers, and their families, have a better standard of living than they did between 1930s and 1970s is: almost every family has two cars; homes are bigger; amenities inside the homes regularly include computers, microwaves, gaming consoles (Nintendo, X-box, PlayStation), finished basements, a washing machine and dryer, cable TV, and homes built after 1970s include bathrooms inside the master bedroom.  We have more restaurants to go to, more and healthier food options at the grocery store, better hospitals, prescription drugs, and medical technology, and a health club at every corner.  Our life expectancy has also increased.  All of these lifestyle improvements came about after the 1970s when unionization began to decline.

    On the flip side, statistically, companies that go union do not have job growth at levels compared to their non-union competitors.  The only reason the Big Three became the Big Three was because it was too costly/difficult to ship cars from oversees until the 1990s, and it wasn’t until then that foreign manufacturers started building plants in America.  Until recently, having a “foreign car” meant a luxury.  Now it means affordable quality.  In essence, the Big Three were the only game in town and amounted for much of the job creation until the 1980s.  But now where are they?  Now that foreign, non-union car manufacturers build cars in the U.S. and it is cheap and easy to ship cars here from other countries, the Big Three are still flirting with bankruptcy despite record levels of bailout money from the federal government.

    In closing, Mr. Krugman’s credentials are impeccable, but when it comes to linking this country’s prosperity on the backs of labor unions, his analysis defies belief.