Readers respond to Noel's July column about EFCA
August 14, 2011 | 9:36 pm CDT

Dear Helen:
It was with great surprise that I read Mr. Anthony Noel's "Crossing the Abyss" essay in favor of the Employee Forced (sic) Choice Act (EFCA). I do not know who he is talking to, but no owner or manager in the industry with whom I have spoken within the last two years has expressed support for the EFCA proposal and its potential draconian negative effect on the entire distribution chain. And this is especially true of small manufacturers where neither the employees nor the owners want unions to poison existing relationships or to collect mandatory dues from workers, which funds otherwise would be used to support family needs.

A fundamental question is why such legislation is needed when unions already win 67 percent of secret ballot elections and added 420,000 new members last year. Despite the current $5 million advertising campaign by the unions and several more millions in political contributions to Congress, the EFCA bill has not moved.

There is a reason for this. There has been a groundswell of opposition from small business employers from all sectors of the economy across the country. The conversion of Senator [Arlen] Specter (D-PA) and seating of Saturday Night Live's [Al] Franken (D-MN), whose first legislative action was to co-sponsor EFCA to reward his union supporters, has raised further talk of "compromise," particularly in the Senate, where several eyewash "amendments" are being promoted, but action does not appear imminent.

More disturbing was that the crucial issue of binding arbitration was dismissed by Mr. Noel with a few positive words of support. In fact, this is more important to union organizers than the secret ballot issue and potentially even more damaging to employers. As conceived, this provision eliminates the incentive to compromise, which is fundamental to collective bargaining.

This provision could allow for an employer to be forced to honor a contract incompatible with his cost structure and business model. It would allow for unprecedented government intervention in collective bargaining and, ironically, still deny workers the ability to vote on their own contract. A government bureaucrat would decide! Current and past history (the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare, etc.) easily confirm how ill-advised such a policy would be.

Lastly, but certainly not least, an arbitrator could have the authority to force companies to participate in union pension funds, many of which are insolvent or near-insolvent, and put new liabilities on employer balance sheets. Under pension law, an individual business owner could be responsible for paying benefits to individuals who never worked for his company. This could destroy many small businesses. And if that is not enough to cause worry, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has pledged to force a vote on a "compromise," probably without the objectionable "card check" provision, if possible, or the original bill, if necessary.

Now is the time for employers to make their views in opposition to EFCA known to their elected representatives. "Compromise" is no answer, to paraphrase President Obama. At stake is the ability of small businesses in the U.S. and other employers to remain competitive in today’s global market. This legislation will not add to or help preserve U.S. jobs.

C. Richard Titus
Executive Vice President
Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.

I read and enjoy your column regularly and appreciate your advocacy of cooperative management in a company. I have been a business owner all my adult life and believe it is my responsibility to create opportunity for my employees, as well as profit for myself. Like you, I don't wear my politics on my sleeve because I see the necessity to come to my own conclusions after my own research on issues. Party affiliation takes a back seat to "common sense" in my estimation.

That's why I am surprised by your statement, "Such elections often become a protracted process, allowing for the intimidation of workers by owners and managers opposed to unions." You seem to recognize the possibility for managers to have ulterior motives, but not acknowledge that organized labor has its own political agenda.

(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a).

As you can see from the wording of this bill, anyone could petition for unionization of a company, including a labor organization or "an individual" (as differentiated from "an employee").

As a life-long citizen of California, I can assure you from personal and close observation that unions are quite capable of using coercion, intimidation, propaganda, bribes and lies to promote their agenda. They would use these tactics to get the petition signed with no secrecy for the signator, thereby preempting an election with a secret ballot. Would this very plausible scenario fall into your definition of "dirty pool?"

Unions have become as much a political special interest as an organization that protects the workers' rights. It is folly to think that "doing the right thing and being ethical" will somehow make one immune from the affects of political manipulation.

We are all impacted by regulations, taxes and government intervention at all levels, a lot of which are driven and financed by special interest groups like unions. I wonder how many workers have been harmed by bad management as opposed to lost jobs caused by bad government or union policy?

The purpose of this screed is to offer up another perspective concerning the EFCA and other government action, for that matter. As I said, I've really enjoyed your columns over the years and appreciate your business insights. Keep up the good work, and dig deep when assessing a government program.

Jim Drennan

Dear Tony,
I don't often take time to write an author when I read something that provokes an interesting thought. I also don't often see articles that make a valid point without having an axe to grind.

I think you did a very fair piece on the EFCA. I also expect you will get a lot of negative reaction to your stance, probably from both sides. You should know that there are readers who appreciate what you have to say. Keep up the good work.

Mike Brannon
Smoot Lumber Co.
Stock Building Supply

Anthony Noel,
Thank you so much for the article about the Employee Free Choice Act, "Crossing the Abyss," in the June 2009 issue of CWB. Having been in the woodworking industry with my husband for 20 years and having my own woodworking-related business for another 20 years, I feel I have a little experience.

I, too, fall into the "cooperative management approach" and have a great deal of confidence in my employees. I can understand the fear of some employers, because their strengths are in areas other than communication and relation-building among work staff. They work hard for many hours a week and can become irritated at one questionable employee by generalizing that behavior onto others. I have co-owned a union shop, as well as owned a non-union shop, and they both have their own individual up-sides and down-sides. But fear of the other will not save a business, nor decrease the hard work needed to survive. Thanks again for your take on EFCA, even if in this case, you are talking to the choir.

Yours Truly,
Carol Grant
Owner and manufacturer of Panelclip

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.