Proposed Card Check Law Threatens Jobs and Reform

Mar 31, 2009

Proposed Card Check Law Threatens Jobs and Reform
Guest columnist, Aiken Standard, March 31, 2009

When Americans go to the polls to elect someone to public office, we go into a private booth and fill out a secret ballot. We have that right to make a choice without fear of intimidation or retribution. Imagine one day being told that you no longer had the right to a secret ballot because some powerful interests in Washington had decided to replace it. Now, each individual would be required to publicly declare their candidate of choice to anyone within eyesight or earshot. This would seem outrageous and a clear attack on the fabric of our democratic process. Yet right now there is a bill in Congress that would do the same thing for every worker who is deciding whether or not to form and join a union.

The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) all but eliminates the secret ballot by requiring that a majority of employees merely sign a card to determine unionization - denying a worker's right to an election. Additionally, it requires that the government step in after only 120 days of employer-employee contract negotiations and impose binding arbitration. Those who should normally be making the decisions regarding union contracts - the employers and employees - would have the terms ultimately dictated to them by the government. Card check, as it is commonly known, would leave workers open to undue public scrutiny.

In these tough economic times, Americans have enough to worry about without fearing intimidation in the workplace. They also should not be subject to an instance where either party can merely walk away from a contract negotiation table because the government plans to step in and make decisions for them. Card check does nothing for worker's rights, and it would be a job-killer for our country.

A recent study by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar of the non-partisan firm LECG Consulting reported that the EFCA would in fact fuel unemployment. The study concludes that the unemployment rate would rise 1 percent for every 3 percentage points of growth in union membership. Based on the 1.5 million jobs Big Labor claims will be unionized once the secret ballot has been undermined, our economy would be looking at a loss of 600,000 jobs. This would be bad policy during an economic boom, but it is terrible policy when our economy has already lost millions of jobs.

One prime example of the damage that could be wrought by card check is the strain it will place on our nation's health care system. It is most astonishing that supporters of this bill would push card check at a time when most Americans feel we need to make progress in health care reform. After all, securing access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans is a bipartisan goal. The EFCA, however, would directly and indirectly impede efforts to rein in the cost of health care and disrupt the work of doctors, nurses, and health care facilities to promote quality care.

Our hospital system would be uniquely disadvantaged by the implementation of card check because health care is a continually changing, technology and patient-driven industry. A federally mandated arbitration decision could deny hospitals the flexibility to improve their level of care quickly. Union contracts that restrict the use of qualified care providers that were not party to those contracts could have patients ultimately paying the price for a disruption or breakdown in care. If we are to improve the quality and accessibility of health care in this country, we should not take a step backward by tying the hands of physicians, nurses, and hospitals.

Rather than run the risk of this type of damage to our nation's health care system and others, over 100 members of Congress have banded together to propose an alternative. The Secret Ballot Protection Act would specifically protect the rights of workers for the benefit of all Americans. It guarantees the right to a secret ballot and affirms our commitment to protecting workers from intimidation and coercion.

While Card Check is the dream of certain special interests in Washington, it would be a nightmare for our economy. It is an unnecessary attack on the rights of workers, a detriment to job creation, an undue burden on American industry, and a road block to reform. We should reject efforts to take away rights and instead preserve the fundamentals of American democracy.

The writer represents South Carolina's Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives.