Union tensions loom in Congress

September 22, 2008
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If the Employee Free Choice Act sounds unfamiliar, you arenâ??t alone. The proposed legislation is getting little coverage this election cycle.

But the measure could emerge as a flashpoint in the next Congress as business and labor groups battle for power.

Business lobbies hate the act because it would eliminate employersâ?? ability to demand secret ballots during union organizing votes. The law in effect would allow organizers to see which employees vote against representation, swinging doors wide for coercion, detractors say.

Backers say the legislation is needed to bring fairness to the balance between companies and unions, whose muscle has been dwindling for decades.

A vote in the House in March 2007 went 241-185 in favor of the act, with Indianaâ??s delegation falling along party lines. The Senate ended debate on its bill without bringing it to a vote.

Barack Obama supports the legislation, while John McCain opposes it. Business groups fear it will pass if Obama wins and the Senate gains enough Democratic seats to end Republicansâ?? ability to stop it through filibuster.

Several questions:

What do you think about the balance of power between business and unions? Which side has the greatest power, and is the imbalance harmful?

What about the question of doing away with secret ballots? Thumbs up or down?

If the legislation were signed into law, how would it affect the odds of a union representing your company or work place?
  • Good questions;

    Business currently has a wide edge on unions ie. workers and the results are obvious in the form of our current economy. There are a lot of factors but the lack of collectively bargaining in the work place certainly has a lot to do why workers have been losing wages for the last decade and so many are facing economic crises due to health care costs, and lack of job stability.

    This bill doesn't do away with secret ballots. It gives the choice to the workers not to the company about how they want to certify their union. Right now the company can decide if workers can certify their union via card check or if they should have an election. Many employers seem to feel it is their decision whether thier employees should have a union or not. It should be the employees decision. .
  • My opinion is that the less unions the better. Unions at one time were a great asset to this country, but they have since become unnecessary bureaucratic political lobbyists. It is the unions that have held the Detroit automakers for ransom, demanding more and more, while those companies continue to sink further and further into debt. See the likes of Honda and Toyota, who's workers have continually voted down the idea of unionizing their work force. Their wages are great and the companies are thriving.
  • How does it not do away with secret ballots? If enough employees sign a public petition, the union will be certified. There is not an opportunity to actually cast a private ballot. A private ballot is the only way to fairly guage the opinion of the work force free from coercion of the union or the employer. This is a bad bill.

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  1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

  2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

  3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

  4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

  5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).