Sunday, November 02, 2008

What's On My Mind Headed Into Tuesday - Part 2

The next two things of concern to me headed into Tuesday's election...

1. Card check. Those pressing this legislation would rather have you focus on the misleading title, the Employee Free Choice Act, rather than on the fact that if passed the bill means anything but a free choice for American workers. Right now, the decision on whether to unionize is a two-step process: workers are first asked if they want to hold a vote on unionization, and if 30 percent say yes then there is a second vote on whether to unionize (a vote that is done by secret ballot). In this method, even if a worker doesn't want a unionized workplace, they can say they want to hold an election and then vote against it with their private ballot. Under card check rules, however, unionizing is moved to a one-step process where workers automatically vote on unionizing -- and it's done in such a way that their vote is public, and where they are open to pressure from coworkers and union organizers to vote for it. Proponents of the legislation say that it doesn't take away the secret ballot at all, but that is a flat-out lie.

Why is card check such an important issue for unions (and the Democrats they support with their contributions)? Quite simply, it is because unions don't hold the sway that they once did -- their membership rolls have been steadily declining, and the money they are able to obtain through union dues has also fallen. If card check is enacted, union rolls will go up, mandatory dues will increase, and organized labor will once again have vast pools of money to play with and throw at their candidates of choice. This is such a big issue for them, in fact, that a story in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago stated that organized labor intends to spend upwards of $300 million in this election cycle for candidates and to push this agenda.

What will this mean for businesses and workers if it passes? That depends on the company for which these men and women work, but in most instances it will among other things:
  • Mandate new benefit plans and salaries for workers (which, at least with the company for whom I work, will actually be much lower on both counts than what workers are receiving);
  • Dictate new job titles and levels of seniority that could be more restrictive than those put into place by management;
  • Make it more difficult for companies to expand and complete renovations or improvements to their workplaces because of being forced to adhere to union regulations on time-lines and contract bidding; and
  • Subject management to the whims of organized labor with regard to strikes and work stoppages.
The House of Representatives passed this last year, and it was only because the Democrats held fewer than 60 seats in the Senate that it didn't progress further. Obama has said he will sign any card check bill that makes it to his desk; McCain is opposed. In short, this bill could be disastrous for American businesses, and even though polls have shown that an overwhelming number of men and women don't like the idea and would be less inclined to vote for a candidate who supports card check, many politicians have very little backbone and are more worried about losing the financial support of unions than representing their constituents.

2. Reductions in the military. Last week, Barney Frank of Massachusetts announced his desire to cut the military budget by 25 percent, which translates to roughly $150 billion. That's a pretty ambitious goal, particularly since -- wait for it -- Congress just recently passed legislation calling for an additional 92,000 Army troops and Marines between now and 2013.

Things in Iraq and Afghanistan have not gone well, despite the success of the surge in recent months, and troops are most definitely stretched thin with their deployments. But is cutting the military budget the way to approach solving this problem? Remember, the Democrats are the ones who are the first to say that their votes against bills providing funding for the troops aren't a demonstration of their lack of support for the troops. If that's the case, then what would slashing $150 billion show them? And I wouldn't be too quick to say that it's money that would be allocated for weapons systems -- because in the long run, I have a strong suspicion that that will not be the case.

Senator Obama has denied that he plans on doing this, but given that if he wins he will have a majority in both the House and Senate with which to work, would he have the guts to buck his party and veto such a measure? Given his past record of bucking his party in favor of the national interest, I don't think so.

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