Card Checks And Balances

Election Day victors exploited disapproval or downright hatred of the outgoing administration and its party. Destined for the driver’s seat, they will


Election Day victors exploited disapproval or downright hatred of the outgoing administration and its party. Destined for the driver’s seat, they will own additional short-term measures to boost a lagging economy, plus tax, environmental, and labor policy decisions whose impact will carry into the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

The construction materials industry is vulnerable to bad policies raised on the campaign trail, and we will soon see the king of candidates take a firm position – the kind that follows one into future elections – on a substantive matter other than taxing the rich. An infrastructure dollar-bearing stimulus package might be a welcome start for the new administration, but where will the president-elect ultimately stand on another pressing matter of longer-term consequence to construction materials producers?

In the Senate and on the campaign trail, Barack Obama supported the union-friendly Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), garnering good will from organized labor that was reflected in the Nov. 4 results. Earlier this year, the Act cleared by a 241-185 vote in the House, where a simple majority rules, but not the Senate, where a 51-48 tally fell nine votes short of the three-fifths majority required for passage. The EFCA has drawn widespread wrath from business, as it radically rewrites representation and contract negotiation law in unions’ favor. Act provisions would ease organizing efforts at small and medium-sized businesses, including ready mixed and manufactured-concrete operators. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Concrete Masonry Association, National Precast Concrete Association and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute are tracking the EFCA as it carries over to the new Congress and past the threat of a certain George W. Bush veto.

Not waiting for the early-January opening of the next Congress, NRMCA joined the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace last month in an appeal to House and Senate members to oppose the Act, citing in a letter these provisions of greatest concern: Elimination of a secret ballot in union representation voting and federal arbitrators’ decisive role in automatic two-year binding contracts. This legislation poses an assault on an individual’s right to privacy and a direct threat to economic growth and job creation, the letter asserts.

The bill is an awful idea in good economic times and a catastrophic idea in the difficult economic times now upon us, notes U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President of Government Affairs R. Bruce Josten. On behalf of the Chamber, which will lead next year’s fight on Capitol Hill against EFCA passage, Josten outlined in a separate letter to Congress how the legislation mandates union recognition if a majority of bargaining unit employees sign authorization cards in lieu of secret ballot vote, hence the card check nickname. It has been well established through court cases, precedent under the National Labor Relations Act, and testimony on Capitol Hill of former union organizers that the card check process of obtaining signatures is routinely characterized by harassment, intimidation, and coercion, including employees being threatened in their homes and other locations away from the workplace, Josten concludes.

The president-elect enters his new workplace pledging pursuit of unity, but confronting a long list of demands from enthusiastic supporters subscribing to the message of change. EFCA’s one-sidedness defies any concept of unity. With a card check vote looming absent the Bush veto threat, Barack Obama and his Democrat-controlled Congress are again free to attach their names to an anti-business gauntlet. Blaming W. on the consequences won’t be so easy.