The Labor Movement's Dangerous Wish List
The new political alignment in Washington has revived the fortunes of the nation’s labor unions, whose power and authority have diminished radically since the 1960s. In the spring, the new Democratic president engineered a partial government takeover of General Motors that was largely designed by and for the benefit of the United Auto Workers, which had worked tirelessly on his behalf and on behalf of the sizable Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. But this remarkable intrusion into the marketplace was not, in fact, the top item on organized labor’s wish list for the year 2009. That honor goes to the Employee Free Choice Act, a two-year-old measure that failed to clear the Senate when it was first introduced in 2007 (and would have been vetoed by then President Bush in any case). The new act was hotly debated in the early months of 2009 and remains on the Democratic party’s agenda, just below health-care reform.
The bill’s chief provisions authorize union formation in a workplace by “card check”—a euphemism for replacing a secret-ballot election on the potential unionization of a workplace with a system by which unions could secure exclusive bargaining rights through authorization cards that would be signed in the presence and with the oversight of union organizers. It would dictate rules favorable to unions and impose collective-bargaining agreements by mandatory arbitration. And it would provide for liquidated damages and fines of $20,000 every time a business is found to have “interfered” with the “right to organize.”
About the Author
Jennifer Rubin is an attorney and journalist living in Virginia.