Congress is steamrollering you — and your employees.

This month I feel compelled to write regarding an alarming trend in Washington. Our elected representatives are steamrollering all kinds of legislation through Congress that is destined to destroy our liberties and our industry at the same time if we don’t stop it. I sincerely hope that by the time you read this column, the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (or the Card Check Act) has not passed both houses of Congress.

Under today’s laws, unions have the right to attempt to organize your company. If they get about a third of your employees to sign a card saying they want the union to represent them, an election is mandated by law. During this election process both parties are allowed to present their arguments for or against union representation of the employees. Then, on election day, all employees are given the opportunity to vote by secret ballot — Yes or No — for a union. Notice I said by secret ballot, just the way we vote for our Congressional representation. Your vote is your business and no one has the right to know how you voted — until now!

The current administration and Congress want to shift the advantage to the unions in an apparent attempt to repay the unions for the financial support they provided during the last election in November. The unions have been in decline for years because most people believe they have outlived their usefulness. Therefore, they have bought support from Congressional members in the House and Senate with political contributions and have now called for a payback.

The Attack on Freedom

The Card Check Act eliminates the worker’s right to a secret ballot. This is accomplished by allowing the union to collect signed cards from your employees, similar to before. However there are several troubling differences. When the union gets a simple majority of employees to sign the card, the union is in. Yep, you got it — no election.

Let’s review that again. The union comes to town and can visit your employees at the grocery store, church, or at home and get them to sign a card asking for a union. Once a majority signs the card, the union is in.

What happened to the secret ballot? What happened to the right for me or anyone to vote in privacy without intimidation?

The unions and the Washington “pundits” will say that there is no intimidation — there never has been and never will be.

However, I have seen and heard testimony to the contrary as worker after worker related how union organizers would come to their home to convince them to sign the card. They have even gone to neighbors to get them to put pressure to sign. In the past, signing a card to keep peace in your neighborhood was not as serious an issue because you would have a secret ballot later and you could vote any way you wanted to at that time, without your neighbors knowing. Thus, friends could stay friends.

This is the way it should be — and what freedom is all about. Unfortunately, Congress has gone mad and is stripping this basic human right to privacy from the workplace in its efforts to placate the union bosses. President Obama has made a public statement that the unions “would always have a seat at the table.” What about you and me?

The Results

Increased unionization of the wood products industry in this country will amount to its final burial. As I write, the automobile industry is in full collapse in this country, and informed people know the main reasons why. The labor unions have demanded so much and have saddled the companies with so many restrictions and obligations they cannot compete today and are essentially bankrupt. I have been COO of a unionized company in the wood products industry and I know how the union does all it can to prevent the flexibility needed as a company embarks on an aggressive Rapid Continuous Improvement program to become more globally competitive.

In the midst of global competition today, we need that spirit of oneness and cooperation within our plants that allows us to work together, unrestrained, to find ways to increase productivity so we can strengthen our companies and provide job security for all of our employees. The union has done a lousy job of providing job security for the auto industry and we surely don’t need that kind of help in the wood products industry!

The reason that unionization has fallen during the past few decades is that it has been rendered impotent by companies and employees forging a team spirit to work together to compete globally. Workers are no longer exploited, nor do companies look at employees as instruments of work. Today, employees are regarded with the highest respect and treated as equals in an increasing number of plants in our industry as we work together to compete globally. Employees today are called associates and are empowered to make decisions for positive change.

What You Can Do

I want to relate a true example of what has happened in my community. We have a good base of industry in our small county. Thankfully, our community has some clear-thinking, concerned citizens who want to protect the jobs here.

A few weeks ago, the local economic development group and some concerned county commissioners drafted resolutions opposing the “Employee No Choice Act.” Some of us contacted the county commissioners and explained what the passage of this bill could mean to the industry and the tax base in this community. At first there was resistance and we were told that this was a Washington matter and that the county had more important issues to tackle.

However, they soon agreed to a public hearing on the resolution and the unions sent a mass of representatives to speak against it. Believe me when I say that the union justifications were shallow at best. One political party sent representatives to convince the commissioners to leave this issue to Washington. However, others spoke out in opposition to this attack on our freedom and convinced the board that this was indeed a local issue. Due to the large turnout of union officials, most present also were convinced that this was indeed a local issue as the unions tried to belittle those opposed to the bill.

Many of us know that this bill is wrong. The local newspaper came out in support of the resolution that encouraged our congressional representatives to vote against the bill. The county board of commissioners got phone calls and visits from those in Washington — putting pressure on them to drop the issue. But, to their credit, they did not. The board voted for the resolution and the community has spoken loudly against the bill. I am told that one of our representatives took his name off the bill as a co-sponsor after the grass roots opposition surfaced.

This is what you can do — get involved in your community, now! If your local officials are not interested, work hard to get them out of office. If your Congressman or Senators do not listen, work even harder to vote them out of office. Our industry, and others like it, must get involved politically to stop the craziness in DC. If you want to be heard today, you have to scream. Don’t forget to get your local city, county, and state governments involved.

This is supposed to be a free country where we all have the right to choose our own futures. This bill strips the basic right of the secret ballot from our employees’ hands. We cannot let what happened to the auto industry in Detroit happen to us in our communities. Call your colleagues and friends today and join forces to stop the steamroller that is coming down your street.

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail tfd@dossenbach.com.

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