Union Blues

Disgruntled conservatives who argued last fall that it would make no difference whether Republicans or Democrats were in charge of Congress should pay close attention this week.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is prepared to vote on legislation that would make it easier for organized labor to coerce workers into unionizing by denying employees the right to a secret ballot election. The legislation, which went nowhere under Republican control, now has 233 co-sponsors and is expected to sail through the House.

The sorry state of organized labor was reinforced last month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data showing that union membership had dropped to 12 percent of the U.S workforce. This was the lowest level recorded in the more than two decades that the BLS has been tracking union membership regularly and represents a steady decline from the heyday of organized labor in the 1950s, when more than a third of workers were members of a union. American workers have overwhelmingly rejected unions, so the only way for the labor movement to fight back is to change the rules.

Under current law, if a union gets the signatures of at least 30 percent of employees, it can obtain a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. But the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act currently in the House would allow the NLRB to certify a union if a simple majority of workers publicly sign “card checks.” Employees would not be able to cast their votes privately, leaving the process vulnerable to union intimidation tactics. And these tactics need not be as overt as those of Jimmy Hoffa.

Unions can resort to other forms of harassment to influence workers who may not be interested in joining, which is clear from examples in which businesses have allowed unions to organize using the “card check” process. Mike Ivey, who works for the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation in Gaffney, South Carolina, has sought legal representation from the National Right to Work Foundation after four years of harassment from United Auto Workers, which has tried to organize the facility. Though 70 percent of employees indicated they had no interest in joining the union, Ivey stated that the UAW turned his workplace into a hostile work environment in its drive to get a majority of employees to fall into line. Friendships fell apart and opponents of unionization were constantly badgered at work, called at home, and even visited multiple times at their homes by union organizers.

As someone who once had the misfortune of being a member of a union as part of my contract with a former employer, I can personally testify to the power of good old-fashioned peer pressure. When my union was in contract negotiations, it asked its members to participate in a silly ritual in which everybody wore red union shirts at the office to show their solidarity. Given my political tendencies, I refused to participate in such a nonsensical exercise. As a result, co-workers would repeatedly stop by my desk in an effort to cajole me into putting on the shirt, while others would simply roll their eyes or look at me in disgust as they passed me. While I never submitted to their demands, virtually everyone else in the office did, including many who privately expressed to me their opposition to the union and recognized the absurdity of such a childish display. I could only imagine how much more intense the peer pressure would have been had the issue been about establishing a union.

If unions believe that workers would benefit from their representation, they have no reason to fear submitting themselves to the democratic process in a secret ballot election, but instead they prefer coercion.

In 1992, United Food and Commercial Workers union organizer Joe Crump let the cat out of the bag when he wrote that to achieve unionization under the card check process, “you don’t need a majority or even 30% support among employees.” Meanwhile, under the secret ballot process, an AFL-CIO organizing study published in 1989 said, “It is not until the union obtains signatures from 75% or more from the unit that the union has more than a 50% likelihood of winning the election.”

The irony is that many House Democrats who support the new legislation have argued in favor of secret ballot elections in the past. In 2001, Rep. George Miller, the chief sponsor of the “card check” bill, wrote a letter to Mexican labor authorities with 15 other members of Congress urging secret ballot union elections. “(W)e feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose,” the letter read. Ten of Miller’s co-signers are co-sponsors of the current legislation that would do away with secret ballots, including such notables as Barney Frank and Dennis Kucinich.

The fact that the “card check” legislation would be such a high priority for Democrats should come as no surprise. In the 2006 elections, organized labor gave 87 percent of its political contributions to Democrats, representing $56.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. If unions can reverse their decline as a result of this legislation, it would help cement Democratic control of Congress. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has said that if it becomes law, the legislation would enable Democrats to “retain power in Congress for the next 50 years.”

Though the bill is ensured smooth passage through the House, it faces the possibility of a Republican filibuster in the Senate. But even if it makes it to the White House, Dick Cheney has already said that President Bush would exercise a rare veto.

Conservative pundits, including this one, took aim at the Republican majority as it deviated from its limited government principles and further blurred the difference between the two parties. But this week, as the Democratic-controlled House moves to limit individual liberty at the behest of its friends in big labor, it is only fair to note that as bad as deviant Republicans may be, Democrats are worse.

Philip Klein is a reporter for The American Spectator.

Me vs. The DNC

As John pointed out below, the DNC has quoted me wildly out of context in a press release under the subheadline “Conservative Leaders Oppose Giuliani’s Candidacy.” Of course, they are wrong on two counts. First, as flattering as it is, I don’t think many people would quite consider me a “conservative leader.” Second, and more importantly, I have been an outspoken proponent of Giuliani’s candidacy, even to the annoyance of some commenters on this blog. The DNC quoted me as writing that “a Giuliani victory would be difficult, not impossible.” (Leave it to Democrats to miss a Godfather Part II reference.) Of course, when I wrote that, it was as part of an article subtitled “In a unique time, America’s Mayor finds himself in prime position to win the presidency.” The article went on to explain how Giuliani could win over social conservatives. With Rudy building his lead against the top Democrats, it’s no surprise that the donkey party would want to emphasize division among conservatives. But they can at least be honest about it. Tomorrow, I intend to demand a retraction. To extend the Godfather Part II analogy, “I hope they will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which they have now besmirched it.”

A Letter to Mr. Carter

Dear Jimmy,

After reading that you're suggesting critics of your recent book visit the Palestinian territories to asses whether your account is accurate, I would like to take you up on your suggestion. As a critic of your book, I would be happy to visit the territories, but only if you loan me your security detail.

I have already traveled to Israel, and found it to be a thriving democracy made up of citizens who desire peace. I visited the holy sights in Jerusalem, which people of all faiths can visit, even though I would have been barred from visiting there prior to 1967, when Arabs controlled the area, because of my religious background. I have met Israeli parents who have had their teenage sons and daughters taken away from them by Palestinian suicide bombers while they were riding on a bus to school. I've also met survivors of suicide bombings who remain crippled for the rest of their lives. So, I must admit, I'm sympathetic to the idea of building a security fence that drastically reduces the number of suicide bombings so that less innocent people have to die or get severely injured both in the attacks themselves and retaliatory strikes against such attacks.

Jimmy, I would like to travel to the Palestinian territories to get the other side of the story, but I wouldn't feel safe there, because I am an American and Jewish journalist with pro-Israel sympathies. I've seen videos where Palestinian religious leaders preach hatred for Jews, I've read stories about journalists being kidnapped while reporting in the territories, I know that the popularly-elected government is dominated by a group that has called for the destruction of Israel, and I saw that Palestinians celebrated in the streets when my nation was attacked on Sept. 11. Palestinians cheered, as I smelled the burning rubble in Manhattan and mourned the deaths of thousands of innocent people, so I'm a bit touchy. Israelis stood side-by-side with America, because they understood more than any other nation what we were going through, so I was touched.

I know you are a great humanitarian Jimmy, so if you feel that I would benefit by visiting the Palestinian territories, I'm sure you would let me borrow your Secret Service protection so I could have that opportunity.

I look forward to hearing back.



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Romney’s Checklist Conservatism

National Review has an editorial up about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The editorial argues that “Conservatives should hope Romney’s campaign does not fizzle” because being open to converts in the past has “given ideologically malleable Republicans an incentive to adopt conservative positions.” It argues that “his conservatism will likely continue to sound tinny until he gives it an overarching theme of his own” and he should “figure out a distinctive way to apply his conservatism to the challenges of our time.”

After all that NR has done to tout the candidacy of Romney, now we get to the point where the editors argue that he needs an “overarching theme” to his conservatism. The problem is, any “overarching theme” at this point is likely to be the result of long deliberation among his talented lineup of political consultants–the same process that was responsible for producing his “tinny” checklist conservatism in the first place. Yes, he has ten months until the first primary, but he has been essentially running for president for over a year and has already hired talent, toured the country, locked up endorsements, and launched TV ads. So, it actually does seem a bit late in the day to be deciding why he’s a conservative or what the rationale is for his candidacy. Also, it’s difficult to understand how his experience will prove relevant to our times. If the major crisis facing America were economic, then perhaps there would be a rational for choosing an accomplished businessman and successful turnaround artist. But this time around, no matter what the outcome in Iraq, America will be choosing a wartime leader. Is helping to launch Staples relevant to this? Is rescuing the Olympics relevant? Is turning a deficit into a surplus in Massachusetts relevant? I don’t see how it is.

Maggie Gallagher Mulling Rudy

I’m just seeing this now, and have trouble believing my eyes. Maggie Gallagher, the staunch social conservative and leading opponent of same-sex marriage, says she’s “thinking hard” about supporting Giuliani–even though she never voted for him when she lived in New York City because of the abortion issue. “When I ask myself, who of all the candidates in both parties do I most trust to keep me and my children safe? The answer is instantaneous, deeper than the level any particular policy debate can go: Rudy Giuliani.”

More Mitt-Bopp

James Bopp Jr., Romney’s advisor on life issues who wrote the pro-Romney piece I criticized below, has now told the Politico:

“I don’t know yet about Romney,” Bopp admits. “I’m not really sure where [abortion] will ultimately fit in his agenda. He’s still on a journey.”


About That Romney Endorsement…

Defending Mitt Romney's stance on abortion on NRO, pro-life activist and Romney advisor James Bopp Jr. writes:

Romney’s conversion was less abrupt than is often portrayed. In his 1994 Senate run, Romney was endorsed by Massachusetts Citizens for Life and kept their endorsement, even though he declared himself to be pro-choiceâ€_

It's great that a Romney surrogate is now touting the fact that he "kept" the endorsement, but back in the 2002 gubernatorial debate against Shannon O'Brien that Wlady alluded to earlier, Romney himself emphatically denied knowledge of the endorsement. The video is here, but this is the relevant exchange:

ROMNEY: I don't know about the endorsement of the Mass. Citizens for Life. I didn't seek it. I didn't ask for itâ€_

O'BRIEN: But you accepted it

ROMNEY: When you say I accepted it, I didn't write a letter and say, 'Here, thank you very much for your endorsement.'

O'BRIEN: Your spokesperson stated that you accepted their endorsement.

ROMNEY: Shannon, I can tell you again. I did not in any way acknowledge their endorsement, nor do Iâ€_

O'BRIEN: But you accepted it.

ROMNEY: When you say I accepted it, in what way did I accept it, Shannon?

O'BRIEN: Ask your campaign spokesperson.

ROMNEY: I don't have a campaign spokesperson here tonight. I'm here right now and I can tell you that I did not take a position of a pro-life candidate. I am in favor of preserving and protecting a woman's right to choose.

Yet another example of Romney and his backers attempting to re-write history based on whatever is most politically convenient at the time. This goes beyond mere flip-floppery. This is an insult to the intelligence of conservatives everywhere.  

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Mean Rudy

In response to David Freddoso’s piece from last week criticizing Giuliani’s rudeness, Deroy Murdock argues that Republicans could use a leader with a bit of a mean streak. He thinks that the problem with the GOP is that they’ve been playing nice with Democrats.

RE: He Said, She Said

Wonkette said:

stating anything so obvious requires taking your lips off Israel’s ass for a few seconds, and that’s fatal for any American politician with presidential ambitions. This isn’t because Jews get upset or Israel’s feelings will get hurt or anything. It’s because of batshit insane evangelical American Jesus Freaks who have to love and protect Israel so Jesus will come back and destroy it.