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Observers of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet have been wondering aloud how he could in 25 minutes make a decision to support Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor but still be unable after a few months of opportunity to consider the issue to take a position on “card check”, the Democratic plan to eliminate the requirement for a secret ballot to unionize a company and to force binding arbitration of contracts between companies and their unionized employees. As reports of a potential “compromise” come out, the positions of on-the-fence Democrats becomes increasingly important. And Michael Bennet is the poster child for “on the fence.”
The choice about whether to support card check, given the Orwellian title of the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) by its devious union-owned creators, pits two essentially simple positions against each other: Do you support a bill designed to enrich unions, and therefore Democratic politicians, at the expense of fundamental rights and the US economy and your (or your constituents) ability to get a job?
A new report by the Workforce Fairness Institute estimates that card check “could result in at least $1.7 billion (in 2009 dollars) in additional political spending by labor unions over a 10-year period.” Anyone want to guess what percentage of that money would go to Democrats? The report takes SEIU boss Andy Stern at his word when he estimated that unions would increase their membership by 1.5 million members over the next decade or so. Assuming a dues amount of $425, “enactment of EFCA would increase union receipts by $637,500,000 per year.” You get the picture: Democrats pass legislation which enriches the unions, then unions contribute money to Democratic candidates for office in a never-ending cycle of parasitism on the US economy, taxpayers, and voters.
Of course, almost every Democratic plan puts a legislator facing essentially this same question: Big government and unions versus a competitive economy with reasonable taxes. And the Democrats are finally getting some push-back, including from the corporations that one might have viewed to be most “liberal”. For example, last week Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that if Obama’s plans to tax the foreign-earned profits of US corporations at higher rates passes, Microsoft will move jobs offshore.
But card check should be an easier decision for Bennet and others. Not only does it enrich unions at the expense of competitiveness (a concept which most Democrats seem not to understand and the ones who do seem not to care), but it also eliminates the secret ballot currently required to unionize. It’s almost embarrassing to see card check supporters twisting and spinning, trying to explain why a secret ballot is important everywhere (even in Mexican labor organizing) except to unionize an American company. Card check will mean that union bosses can and will ask employees to sign cards – and will ask in front of those employees’ friends, putting tremendous pressure on them to go along. It also bears noting that if an employee signs a card indicating that he supports an election to decide the question of unionization, that card can be used toward a card check majority, i.e. to unionize without an election! It is interesting to see how such an undemocratic idea is somehow so Democratic.
The other extremely objectionable provision of the law would force binding arbitration, presumably by a government or government-like board, of employment contracts when a union and a company don’t agree on terms. Imagine this scenario: The prevailing wage for a particular industry is $30/hour. The company offers $25. The newly unionized company would, under normal circumstances, counter at $32 or $35 or $38 and then sit down to negotiate. Under card check, the union will probably come back at $45 and then refuse to enter into meaningful negotiations. Then the arbitrator could easily say “Well, let’s split the difference” and force a contract of $35/hour on to the company, leaving the company unable to compete – and therefore likely to end up firing the workers anyway.
You may say that unions are smarter than that, but I disagree for two reasons. First, the union bosses will have collected at least some dues from the company’s workers, dues which they wouldn’t have otherwise collected without card check because unionization wouldn’t have happened without the pressure the bill allows unions to bring on workers. Second, history shows that unions don’t understand, at least not until it’s too late, such as with GM. And I suppose one might add that recent events might give unions the sense that government will just bail them out anyway if they’ve demanded so much that their employer is now not competitive. In other words, the scenario of binding arbitration is likely to cause many cases of companies not being able to compete – and companies never being created because the potential entrepreneurs won’t want to live through this nightmare scenario.
So, I repeat, the question of card check is very simple: Do you care more about enriching unions or more about the entire American economy and basic “small-d” democratic principles? And I repeat, why is this question so difficult for Michael Bennet?
In a sense, it’s a rhetorical question because we basically know the answer: He’s a Democrat and that’s the party that does almost nothing without union approval or the best interest of union bosses in mind. But at some point – and that point is now – a Senator must consider more than just whether the SEIU will contribute to his next election. I know that most politicians care primarily about winning their next election, but any decent human being (and most politicians are human beings) has to be able to sleep at night. No decent human being could support card check and sleep at night.
So it was interesting to see the Denver Post article about Michael Bennet saying that a group of Latino business owners who oppose card check were publicly pleased with a meeting they had with Bennet only to be followed by Bennet’s staff trying to repeat Bennet’s lack of position on the issue, trying to calm unions for whom card check is the top priority.
According to the Post, “Bennet said he’s waiting to see a compromise on the unionization bill that Democrats are trying to hammer out before deciding his position.” Hmmm. Is that like waiting to see Hitler’s compromise position on the Jews before deciding whether to vote for him?
Although Senator Bennet is one of the most high profile wafflers on card check, he’s not alone. California Senator Diane Feinstein was reported to be “firmly and completely opposed” to EFCA by someone who attended a meeting in which she spoke on the subject. Her office then put out a clarification saying she’s “working to find common ground.” Again, what common ground can there be between an evil stew of tyranny and economic destruction versus the sanctity of a secret ballot and the ability for companies and workers to negotiate contracts without government imposing them?
One can almost hear Michael Bennet’s fear and inexperience when he says “I feel like I’m having the opportunity for people to share their concerns on both sides of the issue.” As if he doesn’t know people’s “concerns”. The unions are “concerned” about how they can get as much money as possible and everyone else is concerned about the ability to get a job or start a business. Come on, Senator Bennet, is this really that hard a question? And if it is, don’t we certainly have the wrong guy representing us on Capitol Hill?