Today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) unveiled legislation meant to “guarantee workers’ rights to secret ballot elections and create a firewall” against the Employee Free Choice Act. As a preview, DeMint took to Fox News to describe why he thinks his firewall is necessary. Amidst the usual false rhetoric about Employee Free Choice eliminating the secret ballot, DeMint also incorrectly claimed that the act would harm small businesses:
And this is not just for big auto companies, this is for small electrical contractors, companies with 10 or 15 people. It would change the business model of the United States to the same model the U.S. auto industry has in Detroit.
DeMint has this all wrong. The National Labor Relations Act excludes non-retail employers whose interstate commerce is less than $50,000 and retail employers whose gross annual volume is less than $500,000; there are various other size exemptions for all sorts of industries, from newspapers to taxicab companies. These exemptions would not change under the Employee Free Choice Act.
As Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) wrote, “many small business owners in particular have asked me how this legislation would affect their businesses. I don’t think they have much to worry about”:
First, in the decades when our labor laws protected workers’ free choice to join unions, small businesses thrived and America built the strongest middle class in the world…Second, the Employee Free Choice Act makes no changes to the small business exemptions under our nation’s labor laws. Small businesses employing an estimated four million American workers would still be exempt and completely unaffected.
And its not as if unionization is the immediate death knell of a business anyway. The Small Business Administration has actually found that small business bankruptcy rates are lower in states with high unionization rates.
Finally, DeMint is grossly misinformed if he thinks that allowing workers to organize via majority-sign up transforms a business into a failing U.S. auto company. Since 2003, half a million workers have organized in this fashion — because their employers allowed it — including employees at AT&T and Pacific Gas and Electric, neither of which looks anything like one of Detroit’s Big Three.
American Rights at Work responded to DeMint:
At a time when more Americans are hurting financially than perhaps at any other time in our history, a small group of consistently anti-worker members of Congress are introducing legislation to make it harder for workers to negotiate for better pay and health care for themselves and their families. It is unconscionable that these Congressmen with six-figure salaries and guaranteed pensions choose to kick America’s workers when they are down.