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LA Democrats must reject attack on workers, economy

If the likes of Democrats Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Charlie Melancon genuinely and sincerely wanted to help reduce the impact of the unfolding Obama recession, they will vote down the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act when Democrats try to ram it through Congress.

This legislation would replace secret ballot organizing elections with publicly signed union cards, allowing union organizers to deceive, harass, and threaten workers into signing these cards. Workers would not even have to know about the organizing drive. Once organizers had collected cards from a majority of employees the employer would have to recognize the union as representing all workers, even if the rest of their employees knew nothing about the organizing drive.

This is opposed to the current system, where a secret-ballot election must be held if 30 percent of the workers in a potential bargaining unit sign cards authorizing union representation and the company contests formation of a union. Under this law, a union could continue collecting signatures up to an absolute majority and then skip the election entirely – something either Melancon doesn’t know or is being deceptive about when he says a company could call for an election under the new guidelines.

Another canard about the legislation is that it somehow reduces a pro-company bias in the process. There is no bias is the process currently precisely because indication of interest by gathering cards from 30 percent of the workforce then leads to a secret ballot where neither side knows who is voting for what. In reality, unions tend to aim for double that before asking for an election precisely because they know intimidation currently results in more cards than actual votes when voting unions cannot convincingly accost workers and pressure them – and they still lose about 40 percent of the time. This bill would pervert the process, allowing unions to know who has signed and who hasn’t while the company is left totally in the dark on that matter. To make things worse, it increases penalties against certain practices by companies during an organizing drive but not against unions.

But besides its assault on workers’ freedom, choice, and rights, the bill will have serious deleterious effects on the economy because it allows for the artificial distortion of the market, increasing the price of a good (labor) above its true worth as does any cartel. Studies consistently show that unionization reduces the number of jobs, a conservative estimate being 765,000 in two years if this bill is adopted. In one study, manufacturers reduced jobs by 11 percent two years after unionization, with losses disproportionately among smaller businesses. The Great Depression was aggravated in its length and severity by an expansion of unionism, not a good omen.

With unemployment skyrocketing upwards and the economy shrinking at a near-record pace, the last thing that needs to be done is anything that destroys more jobs and discourages more productivity. Landrieu had been a co-sponsor of previous incarnations of the bill but wisely opted out this time; she can use as the excuse to vote against it the economic deterioration under Obama. Melancon claims he likes the bill with some change, and when major alterations of it are not forthcoming he can follow suit. Regardless of the reasons for not supporting it, these Louisiana Democrats need to put workers and people first rather than party and greed.

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