Yesterday, the Wonk Room noted that conservatives are beginning to warn against the supposedly anti-business agenda of the newly-elected progressive government, beginning with the Wall Street Journal’s report that businesses are bracing “for a cooler climate.” Meanwhile, McClatchy reported today that big businesses are preparing “for a less friendly Washington” and are concerned about “rapid passage” of the Employee Free Choice Act:
Business lobbies can take solace in one important development: Democrats appear to have failed to win enough Senate seats to reach the 60-vote margin needed to cut off debate and force votes on controversial legislation.
This numbers game is important because unions have their eye on rapid passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which was supported by Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. The legislation would end seven decades of secret balloting during union drives and instead allow organizers to collect signatures from a majority of workers to form a union. This process is called “card check.”
First, McClatchy is spreading some misinformation about the bill: it would not end secret balloting. But more importantly, lost in all this discussion of businesses concerned about the Free Choice Act is the fact that the general public supports the bill. As swing-state polling from American Rights at Work and Peter D. Hart Research Associates shows:
- Nearly two-thirds (60%) of voters believe in even in these tough economic times, it is important to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and nearly one-third (31%) of voters strongly believe it should be a priority for Congress.
- When told about proposed legislation in Congress that would “make it easier for workers to form unions by allowing employees to be represented by a union when a majority of their coworkers sign cards saying they want to join that union,” voters favor the Employee Free Choice Act by nearly three to one (55% favor; 28% oppose).
- Voters “are more than twice as likely to say big corporations having too much power (50%) creates a bigger problem for people like them than big labor unions having too much power (23%).”
- Overall, 55% of voters in these states say they approve of labor unions, compared with just 27% who say they disapprove.
As American Rights at Work pointed out, “Despite an extraordinary $20 million spent in nine battleground states to defeat candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act, voters soundly rejected this misleading anti-union campaign from corporate interests and overwhelmingly backed candidates who support working families.” On election day, an anti-union ballot initiative in Colorado also failed to pass.
Being in a union can considerably improve many facets of a worker’s life, through increased wages, better health insurance, and better retirement benefits. It would be nice for some media outlet to focus on that aspect of the Free Choice Act, instead of constantly allowing businesses to say how bad it will be.
UPDATE: Roll Call reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has vowed to fight the bill:
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue vowed in a press conference Thursday morning that his business association would continue its battle against the Employee Free Choice Act. “Labor unions and trial lawyers will expect payback,” Donohue said. “Their agendas should alarm every business, small and large.”