Stay Informed

Receive newsletters & regular updates.

Click here to register

News

Arbitration is key in fight over union bill (Click Here)

July 28, 2009

“Card check is the political poison in the bill, but forced arbitration is the real poison,” said Steven Law, general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We suspected from the beginning that the binding arbitration was packaged with the elimination of the secret ballot in order to create a straw man they could take down later,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

One compromise that lawmakers are considering is to adopt baseball-style “final offer” arbitration, where both sides submit offers and the arbitrator picks one package offer or the other. Proponents of this style say the uncertainty creates an incentive for both sides to agree.

Keith Smith, a spokesman at the National Association of Manufacturers, says baseball arbitration “reduces it to a game of Russian roulette. While that may work in baseball, where you’re really just looking at salaries and length of contract terms, it doesn’t take into account the comprehensive nature of a collective bargaining agreement.”

Arbitration is key in fight over union bill
By SAM HANANEL (AP) – July 28, 2009

WASHINGTON — The willingness of some Democrats to drop the “card check” portion of a union organizing bill has led opponents of the measure to intensify their attack on another major provision: Binding arbitration if a new union and management can’t agree on a first contract within 120 days.

“We suspected from the beginning that the binding arbitration was packaged with the elimination of the secret ballot in order to create a straw man they could take down later,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

A small group of senators led by Democrat Tom Harkin of Iowa is working out a compromise of the Employee Free Choice Act, one of the most polarizing measures in Congress and the top legislative priority of labor leaders, who want to reverse years of declining union membership.

Although Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate, several moderates — including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — have insisted they cannot support the bill as is.

Anti-union forces are targeting at least a half-dozen Democrats, and one group spent $1 million this month on TV ads in Nebraska alone, targeting Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.

For months, business groups focused on fighting “card check,” which would allow employees to form a union by signing cards instead of holding secret ballot elections. That changed earlier this month, when some labor leaders and lawmakers indicated they were willing to drop card check from the labor law overhaul if that would help the bill overcome a Senate filibuster.

Arbitration now looms as its most prominent sticking point. Anti-union groups, already spending millions on television advertising, direct mail and lobbying campaigns against the bill, have tweaked their message to stress how damaging they believe arbitration will be to employers.

Labor advocates say they are committed to passing a bill that allows workers to join a union without intimidation, harassment and unfair delays. Once a compromise is reached, Democrats are expected to push for a quick vote sometime after Congress passes health care reform legislation.

“There has to be a dispute resolution mechanism that doesn’t allow employers to delay and use that as a last trap door to avoid the employees’ decision to have a union,” said Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Business groups say arbitration would allow a federal official who knows nothing about a company to suddenly dictate workplace rules including salaries, benefits and vacations.

They also say there is a big difference between settling one dispute via arbitration, and settling an entire contract that way.

“Card check is the political poison in the bill, but forced arbitration is the real poison,” said Steven Law, general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Labor advocates argue the struggle some workers face to get a contract months or even years after voting for a union is a central reason that arbitration need to be part of the bill.
That was the complaint at Central Maine Power Co. when professional workers voted to join a union in 2006. Workers said claim managers used classic stalling tactics that ended only when a National Labor Relations Board office said the company was not bargaining in good faith. A company spokesman declined to comment.

“We had 18 months of just banging your head against the wall and the company just sitting there, not willing to hear you out,” said Rodney Curtis, a design technician at the power company in Augusta, Me.

Labor advocates say the Maine workers were actually luckier than others — 44 percent of new unions still don’t have contracts two years after being certified.

“If there’s no contract, then the union hasn’t won anything,” said Bill Gould, a labor law professor at Stanford Law School and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under President Bill Clinton.

Labor advocates argue that arbitration language is standard in many consumer contracts. If a customer has a dispute about a phone bill, credit card or bank statement, it’s settled through arbitration.
“They can’t say ‘When it comes to solving my problems, arbitration is wonderful, but when it comes to solving your problems, we don’t want arbitration,’” said Trumka.

One compromise that lawmakers are considering is to adopt baseball-style “final offer” arbitration, where both sides submit offers and the arbitrator picks one package offer or the other. Proponents of this style say the uncertainty creates an incentive for both sides to agree.

Keith Smith, a spokesman at the National Association of Manufacturers, says baseball arbitration “reduces it to a game of Russian roulette. While that may work in baseball, where you’re really just looking at salaries and length of contract terms, it doesn’t take into account the comprehensive nature of a collective bargaining agreement.”

Posted by Admin on 07/28 at 03:43 PM
(0) CommentsPermalink

Cruz Prediction About Card Check Comes True (Click Here)

July 17, 2009
Today Democrats dropped a key provsion of the Employee Free Choice Act as Cruz and Associates has been predicting would happen.  The card-check provision of the Bill would have required employers to recognize a union if a majority of employees signed cards saying they wanted the union.

Instead they will require much faster elections; perhaps only five (5) to ten (10) days after a union files for a vote.  There is also talk of requiring employers to allow union organizers on company property to talk with employees and solicit support for the union.

See the attached article for more details…

July 17, 2009
Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.

The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions.

The abandonment of card check was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party’s more liberal legislative efforts. Though the Democrats have a 60-40 vote advantage in the Senate, and President Obama supports the measure, several moderate Democrats opposed the card-check provision as undemocratic.

In its place, several Senate and labor officials said, the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections.

While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders argued this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing.

Some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.

The card-check provision was so central to the legislation that it was known as “the card-check bill.” Labor had called the bill its No. 1 objective, and both labor and business deployed their largest, most expensive lobbying campaigns ever in the battle over it.

“This is a very emotional issue,” said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican turned Democrat who had been lobbied heavily by both sides. “I cannot remember an issue this emotional in all my years in the Senate.”

Several moderate Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have voiced opposition to card check, convinced that elections were a fairer way for workers to unionize. They were swayed partly by business’s vigorous campaign, arguing that card check would remove confidentiality from unionization drives and enable union organizers to bully workers into signing union cards.

Though some details remain to be worked out, under the expected revisions, union elections would have to be held within five or 10 days after 30 percent of workers signed cards favoring having a union. Currently, the campaigns often run two months.

To further address labor’s concerns that the election process is tilted in favor of employers, key senators are considering several measures. One would require employers to give union organizers access to company property. Another would bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union sessions that labor supporters deride as “captive audience meetings.”

Labor unions have pushed aggressively to enact the bill — formally, the Employee Free Choice Act. They view it as essential to reverse labor’s long decline. Just 7.6 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions, one-fifth the rate of a half-century ago.

Several union leaders interviewed took the senators’ move in stride. One top union official, who insisted on anonymity because lawmakers and labor leaders have agreed not to discuss the status of the bill, said, “Even if card check is jettisoned to political realities, I don’t think people should be despondent over that because labor law reform can take different shapes.”

While voicing confidence they have the 60 votes to pass the revised bill, labor leaders acknowledged an additional hurdle: two powerful Democrats, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, are seriously ill.

“This bill will bring about dramatic changes, even if card check has fallen away,” said an A.F.L.-C.I.O. official who insisted on anonymity.

The official said the revised bill achieves the three things organized labor has been seeking.

“Our goals,” the official said, “have always been letting employees have a real choice, having real penalties against employers who break the law in fighting unions, and having some form of binding arbitration to prevent employers from dragging their feet forever to prevent reaching a contract.”

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has led a group of six Democrats who have worked closely with labor to revamp the bill. The other senators are Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Mr. Specter.

Labor leaders voiced confidence that if Mr. Pryor backed the compromise, Ms. Lincoln and other moderates would do likewise.

Union leaders argue that under current law, unionization elections are often unfair because, they say, employers have a huge opportunity to intimidate and pressure workers during the lengthy campaigns that precede the unionization vote.

Business leaders say the current system is fair, asserting that unions lose so many elections because workers oppose paying union dues and do not feel they need unions to represent them.

Corporate lobbyists have indicated they would oppose fast elections, arguing that such a provision would deny employers ample opportunity to educate employees about the downside of unionizing, such as strikes and union dues.

Labor leaders counter that employers will have plenty of opportunity to fight unionization, noting that many companies begin plying employees with anti-union information the day they are hired.

Business also opposes the bill’s provisions to have binding arbitration if an employer fails to reach a contract with a new union. Companies argue it would be wrong for government-designated arbitrators to dictate what a company’s wages and benefits should be.

“Binding arbitration is an absolute nonstarter for us,” said Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business group opposing the bill. “We see it as a hostile act to have arbitrators telling businesses what they have to do.”

Several union officials said that once the senators’ revisions became public, some union presidents who are card-check enthusiasts might attack the changes, call for scrapping the revisions and demand an up-or-down Senate vote on a bill with card check.

Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Harkin, declined to discuss details of the bill. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” she said.

Union officials have urged the White House and Senate leaders to schedule a vote this month. But Senate leaders have told labor that the Senate is so preoccupied with health care legislation that September would be the earliest time to take up the pro-union legislation.

Posted by Admin on 07/17 at 02:02 PM
(3) CommentsPermalink