Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Now That the Election is Done and Republicans Own the House, What Does that Mean for Labor?

Definitely kiss the Employee Free Choice Act ("EFCA") goodbye and say hello to legislation that would bar unions from spending members’ dues on politics unless members first “opted in.” The New York Times had an article on what it meant for labor if Republicans took control:
[Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican] is chief sponsor of the Secret Ballot Protection Act, a bill with 115 House co-sponsors that would bar employers from agreeing to unionization through card check. He has also criticized two policies that are favorites of construction unions: the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that contractors on federal public works projects pay workers the prevailing wage, usually near the union wage, even if they are not unionized; and project labor agreements, which tend to tilt the awarding of federally financed construction projects toward unionized contractors.

Professor McCartin said, “I suspect the Republicans will target these policies by trying to make the case that they waste taxpayer money by promoting higher wages on projects that taxpayers pay for.”

Ronald E. Meisburg, a Republican and former general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, predicted that if a Republican-controlled House cripples labor-backed legislative efforts to make it easier for workers to unionize, the Democratic-controlled labor board might take administrative steps. Mr. Meisburg noted that one Democratic labor-board member recently proposed making a change in the timing of workplace elections after employees file a petition to hold a unionization vote, reducing the delay to just five or 10 days.

Unions want an accelerated schedule because they say employers have too much time to ply workers with antiunion propaganda, but employers complain that such quick elections deny them an adequate opportunity to campaign against unionizing.

“We’re concerned that the N.L.R.B. will do exactly that,” said Randel Johnson, senior vice president for labor matters at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It would be unfair to hold elections before employers have a chance to state their case.”

Mr. Samuel predicted that labor could stop any Republican legislative offensive. “When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, they tried to roll back 60 years of labor protections for workers, but we fought them to a stalemate,” he said. “If the Republicans attempt that again, I think this story will repeat itself.”

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