Whenever you accept a naked man’s offer of his shirt, you can be sure of two things:
1. At the end of the day, somebody is going to have a new shirt;
2. It will not be you.
So it is with the latest counterproposal to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). This one comes from the “Committee for a Level Playing Field.” Committee members are self-proclaimed “progressive” retailers Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods.
The Committee’s lobbyist in Congress is Clinton White House veteran and self-styled “pro-labor Democrat” Lanny Davis. Mr. Davis is peddling on the Hill an alternative to the EFCA now before the Senate. He calls the plan a “Third Way” to achieve the legislation’s key objectives.
A “third try” is more like it since the business community’s first two tries were non-starters. To this “Third Way” we can only say, “No way!” This is the lamest effort yet to try to derail the EFCA and it must not succeed.
To no one’s surprise, big business has opposed EFCA from the start. At first, the business community took the position that, “This legislation is no good for you, our workers. And we have only your interests at heart! And besides, the timing is terrible!” That was the naked man offering his shirt.
The illogic of these statements becomes clear on a moment’s reflection: a bad idea does not become a good idea because it is differently timed. Conversely, when is it ever the wrong time to do the right thing?
Next, Big Business cried, “This legislation takes away the secret ballot! It is undemocratic … it’s un-American! The secret ballot is the cornerstone of American democracy!” That argument cast aside two facts: (a) the legislation does not take away the secret ballot; and (b) American democracy is not at stake, only union membership – and money – is at stake.
Next up was the “Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs” (same naked man, different shirt). They stepped in to bleat: “This legislation will wreck the economy!” But the Alliance’s proof was unpersuasive, as I describe here.
Now comes the “Committee for a Level Playing Field,” Lanny Davis, paid spokesman. The Committee offers a “Third Way” forward (thus conceding that their previous ways got them nowhere).
As a “compromise,” the Committee proposes to retain secret-ballot union elections. In other words, it wants to get rid of the card-check provision of the card-check legislation. It also wants to eliminate binding arbitration. Those are the two main elements of the legislation.
The Committee wants employers to have the right to apply to the NLRB to decertify a union. (This reminds me of the courtroom tactic of trying to disqualify the other side’s attorney, which seems to be a favorite ploy when the moving party realizes he has no case.) Now, only employees can move to decertify their union because, after all, it’s their union.
The Committee is willing to concede tougher penalties for unfair labor practices as long as the provisions apply to union and management equally. It will also agree to an unspecified time interval within which secret-ballot elections must be held.
In return, the Committee offers to give unions “equal access” to employees during non-working hours for campaigning purposes. That’s no concession; unions have that much access to employees now, after hours and off-premises.