I recently submitted an editorial reply to The Herald News, in Fall River, MA., in opposition to an article written by Sen. John F. Kerry. To review Sen. Kerry’s article in its entirety, readers should refer to the following citation: (www.heraldnews.com/opinions/x955247878/GUEST-OPINION-Free-choice-and-small-business-02-07-09) My opposition to Sen. Kerry’s article now follows:
I had occasion to read an article published in the Herald News on February 7, 2009, entitled, “Free Choice and Small Business,” written by the Hon. Sen. John F. Kerry. In his article, the Senator promotes the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as a down payment on a “fairness agenda” for the American People.
Is this really about “fairness?” What is fair about a law that completely eliminates a government supervised, secret ballot election process that, for decades, has successfully protected an employee’s right to choose or reject union representation? The Employee Free Choice Act is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. It threatens small business. And, it may become law. Democrats again introduced the EFCA in Congress on March 10, 2009. If passed in Congress, President Obama will certainly sign this legislation into law.
Let’s scrutinize the Senator’s promotion of this pro-union, anti-business legislation by subjecting his stated rationale to a True-False test. Here are the “three key reasons” why Sen. Kerry assures us that small business owners need not fear the Employee Free Choice Act. Let’s take a look….
1. True or False?: Sen Kerry: “In the decades when our labor laws protected workers’ free choice to join unions, small business thrived…”
My Response: Sen. Kerry writes in the past tense, as is to infer that federal labor law has somehow mysteriously changed; as if workers now might no longer have the right to choose or reject union representation. In fact, the opposite is true. Under current federal labor law, the National Labor Relations Board still conducts secret ballot elections in the workplace, as it has for decades, to safeguard the employees’ absolute right to choose or reject union representation. But, this process has not led to favorable outcomes for unions. 2009 estimates suggest that union representation has shrunk to only 5% of the private-sector workforce, from a high of 35% in the 1950’s. In fact, this ever-shrinking percentage of union-represented workers might offer some explanation why small business has thrived, as Sen. Kerry asserts. The EFCA would eliminate this secret ballot election process altogether.
2. True or False?: Sen Kerry: The Employee Free Choice Act “….makes no changes to the small business exemptions under our nation’s labor laws. Small businesses…would still be exempt and completely unaffected.”
My Response: In fact, current federal, jurisdictional standards demonstrate that the government’s intent is to make most businesses subject to federal labor law. As just one example, under current federal law, any non-retail business with interstate revenues (not profits, just revenues) in excess of $50,000.00 would be subject to the EFCA. Clearly using just this standard, many small employers would NOT be exempt from the EFCA. One reported estimate is that 1.8 million small businesses, employing 31 million Americans, would be subject to the EFCA (Source: Labor Pains.Org-Posted Entry dated 2/17/09).
3. True or False?: Sen. Kerry: “The economic benefit of unions to all businesses, large and small, is well-established. Unions help reduce costs….”
My Response: COME ON NOW…Does any sensible individual really believe that a business derives economic benefit from unionization? That will come as news to many unionized businesses that no longer exist. Is Sen. Kerry suggesting that unions make business more competitive in the marketplace? Does he really believe that unions help reduce the operating costs of business? Do unions even care about employers’ costs associated with unionization? Unionized employers incur significant, legal costs as well as economic costs associated with collective bargaining, arbitration of grievances, strikes, defense of unfair labor practice charges filed by unions against employers and other related costs. Union-free employers do not incur these costs. Unionized employers lose flexibility in the management and control of their enterprise. Union-free employers retain the flexibility needed to compete and win in the marketplace, providing real job security to their employees. How many small businesses will actually be able to absorb these additional operating costs of unionization? If this law passes, we will soon find out.
Do not doubt for a moment that the Employee Free Choice Act targets small business. After all, this is a numbers game. If the EFCA passes, small employers will be subjected to an onslaught of union organizing activity. Under this law, a small employer with limited resources to opose unionization becomes an inviting target. Under the EFCA, the unionization of any small business could literally occur within days or weeks after union-organizing activity begins. Small employers will be given little opportunity to respond. Their operating costs will skyrocket. There is no doubt that this law will financially benefit unions. As for workers and small business, don’t hold your breath.