Forbes Says Card Check Bill Means ‘Soviet-Style’ Union Elections

Ryan Byrnes | April 7, 2009 | 11:16pm EDT
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Magazine publisher Steve Forbes. (AP photo)

( – Magazine publisher Steve Forbes said Tuesday the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would eliminate the use of secret ballots in union elections and bring about binding arbitration that would remove employers and employees from the contract negotiation process -- and let government arbitrators dictate first contracts.

“It’s more of a Soviet-style way of doing union elections,” Forbes said during a conference call news conference. “[It] goes against the grain of American tradition.”
Under current law, workers can vote for or against unionization through a secret-ballot election supervised by the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board.
But under the proposed EFCA (also known as the “Card Check” legislation), if more than 50 percent of employees at a business publicly sign a card, the government would have to certify the union -- and a private-ballot election would not take place.
The legislation also mandates that if a union and employer do not reach a contractual agreement after 90 days, a federal “arbitration panel” will render a binding decision to impose a settlement.
Forbes, the president and CEO of Forbes Incorporated, said the EFCA should be referred to as the “Employee Forced Choice Act” because of the strains a government arbitrator would put on American companies, particularly small businesses.
“You would have arbitrators who have no real understanding of small business making decisions on wages, benefits and workplace conditions,” the former Republican presidential candidate said.
Congress is poised to consider the proposal, which is backed by labor unions, this summer – and negotiations going on now on Capitol Hill will determine its fate.
Mark McKinnon of the Workforce Fairness Institute, appeared with Forbes at the news conference. McKinnon said he believes the greater the debate and public discussion there is regarding the bill, the smaller the chance it has of being passed.
“It’s clear that this is the most radical re-write of labor legislation in 80 years,” McKinnon said. “It is a nakedly artificial device designed by labor to simply turn around their declining fortunes. It’s a solution in search of a problem.”
McKinnon said the federal arbitration provision should be the major concern because labor groups would see little incentive to negotiate when they would almost certainly receive a better offer from the eventual interference of federal arbitrators.
He also said more businesses are beginning to learn about the provision and are “absolutely horrified” of the effects it would have on the negotiation process.
“What it is at the end of the day is nothing but a hostile takeover by labor of American business,” he said. “It is a labor bailout bill.”
Unions and employers are taking turns in bringing top names to champion their sides on the controversial legislation.
Forbes and McKinnon are part of an employer offensive this week on Capitol Hill.
Last week, cast members of the television show “The West Wing” appeared on Capitol Hill along with union leaders and worker advocacy groups to support EFCA.
In an interview with CNSNews TV, actors Martin Sheen and Bradley Whitford said the legislation would not end the use of the secret ballot in union organization efforts and it also would not allow the federal government to dictate employee wages and benefits.

“The notion that the labor movement is out to abolish their own members’ rights to secret ballot just doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Whitford told “And people who are propagating the rumor that it does, their sudden compassion for worker’s rights is just not believable.”
But a review found that the language of bill seems to contradict the actors’ views.
The bill (H.R. 1409 and S. 560) text reads: “If the (National Labor Relations) 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).”
McKinnon, meanwhile, said strategy of labor groups was to push the legislation at the end of President Obama’s 100 days, but he said business groups need to be vocal and active in fighting against the bill.
“They are not going to give up on this,” McKinnon said. “They’re going to find alternative ways. They’re going to use all the pressure. You can see the resources they’re spending during the spring break. They’re not letting their foot off the petal and neither are we.
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