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Secret Ballots Aren’t the Only Thing at Stake

The Denver Post is among the latest big-city newspapers to weigh in against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Like other publications, the Post takes issue with the notion that secret ballots are good enough for Congress but not the workplace. But that’s not all:

The “Employee Forced Choice Act” means increased federal government involvement in the personal affairs of employees. If unions and employers cannot reach agreement on employment contracts within a mere 120 days, the union’s proposal dictates that the federal government would send in Washington bureaucrats to decide what pay, benefits and working conditions employees should receive — and employees would not be given a vote.

The mandatory arbitration provision is perhaps the most pernicious part of the bill. While some suspect a grand “compromise” might be in the offing — ballots remaining secret but supplemented by the mandatory arbitration rule – such an outcome would be anathema to business and would result in a frightful increase in the power of the federal government. That’s what we are talking about here: a government official sent into a private workplace to order, in the absence of a voluntary agreement between labor and management, the employer to abide by a government-dictated contract. If this seems like an appalling intrusion into the operation of private businesses, it is.

This is far more extreme than the National Industrial Recovery Act of the New Deal, which at least allowed industries to devise their own “codes.”  In the case of the EFCA, the government would be in the position to directly set wages, benefits, and work rules for any business with a union agreement. Unions would have little reason to agree voluntarily to a deal with management so long as a government arbitrator would be available to ring still more concessions out of the employer.

While proponents of the EFCA maintain the fiction that the legislation is needed to “remove barriers” (i.e. no more secret ballots for those recalcitrant employees) to unionization — conveniently ignoring current prohibitions on interfering with workers’ right to organize — what possible justification is there for government to dictate terms and conditions of employment? There is no flood of unresolved union contracts out there.  There is no logjam of deadlocked union negotiations paralyzing American industry.

This is simply Big Labor attempting to enlist the power of the federal government to obtain more than it can through the collective bargaining system. And if you think bailout mania has distorted and eroded the basic principles of the more-or-less free market system, wait until government starts running labor relations in thousands of factories and workplaces around the country.


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