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Friday, May 09, 2008

Congress Should Follow Hawaii's Pass at Costly, Undemocratic Scheme

Labor union bosses have a lot at stake in the 2008 elections. They are banking on Democrats keeping control of the Congress, and one reaching the White House in order to advance their top legislative priority – the “card check” bill.

“Card check” is a scheme that would take away an employee’s right to a private vote in the workplace regarding union representation. Naturally, with union membership tanking, the unions like this mandated approach to union organizing. Everyone in your workplace would know how you feel about union representation (even the boss), which of course establishes an environment that is ripe for harassment and underhanded tactics.

The Hawaii state legislature ended its session at the beginning of May without attempting to override Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of House Bill 2974, legislation that would have enacted “card check” in the state if she decided to sign it.

Kudos to Governor Lingle.

In her statement that accompanied the veto, Governor Lingle said:

“Maintaining the secret ballot is the best way to protect workers’ privacy and to ensure workers have the ability to vote their conscience without fear of repercussion or retaliation. There is no compelling justification for replacing a fair, democratic process with one that has the potential to erode a worker’s existing rights and protections under the law.”

With her veto, Governor Lingle not only saved workers an important privacy right, but small businesses in Hawaii have been saved from the prospect of expensive union contracts driven by a minority of workers – not the majority – in individual firms. Hawaii is an expensive place to do business as it is – burdensome taxes and regulations and the high cost of living make the state a difficult one in which run a business. Card check would only increase the state’s noncompetitive woes.

For the past twelve years, Hawaii has consistently ranked at the bottom of the barrel on SBE Council’s “Small Business Survival Index.” Its position is steadily improving thanks to the business community’s leadership, and Governor Lingle’s initiatives. These pro-entrepreneur efforts will help to put the state in a more competitive position for attracting investment, encouraging job creation and enabling business start-up and growth.

In Washington, the labor bosses number one priority is to advance H.R. 800, the Employee “Free Choice” Act – the federal equivalent of Hawaii’s bill, but with more bad stuff thrown in. The bill passed the House, but has not reached the 60-vote margin required to advance in the Senate.

While loss of the private ballot is enough of a reason to find “card check” objectionable, the mandatory binding arbitration provision would simply break the financial back of many small firms. Imagine, once unionized, that you as a small business owner could not reach an agreement on a contract within 90 days with the union that now represents your employees. Under mandatory arbitration, government steps in to “help” negotiate an agreement – a contract that your business will be locked into for two years. Essentially, the government will dictate how your business is run.

Card check would eviscerate the flexibility and authority business owners need to manage their costs and operations. These measures also work against the increased flexibility and empowerment that more employees are enjoying.

Tighter reigns and controls imposed by government on businesses and individuals undermine a core U.S. strength that has helped our firms stay competitive -- that is, flexibility. Such restraints also work against key trends that are providing employees more control and power over how their workplaces operate and respond to individual needs.

Card check is anti-worker, anti-democratic and puts private sector decision-making in the hands of government. This is what the U.S. has been helping other nation’s break free from for the past several decades or more.

What are some U.S. politicians thinking?

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