Harkin is one of a handful of negotiators trying to craft a compromise version of EFCA that will prove palatable to a group of centrist Democrats, among them Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). But speaking before the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce today, Lincoln “received a round of applause” for saying that business and labor — not Congress — should be crafting the legislation. From the Associated Press:
Sen. Blanche Lincoln says business and labor groups, not lawmakers, should be the ones to work out a compromise on a union organizing bill. Lincoln said that she still opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and doesn’t think the legislation should be considered while lawmakers are dealing with health care and other issues…Lincoln said any compromise would need to come from business and labor groups.
Big Business and its ally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have derided EFCA, calling it “a firestorm bordering on Armageddon,” saying that retailers who don’t oppose EFCA “should be shot,” and telling workers that unionizing means their benefits will be “thrown out the window.” With her approach, Lincoln is not only abdicating her responsibilities as a lawmaker to those special interests, but she is basically giving the business community a veto over any legislation that other lawmakers might craft.
And unfortunately, a stalemate over EFCA would be just fine with the business community, because under our current system for forming a union, employers hold all the cards. For example, they are able to force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union messaging, or compel employees to participate in anti-union discussions with their own supervisors. Employers threaten to close plants in 57 percent of union organizing drives, threaten to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent, and ultimately fire pro-union workers 34 percent of the time, while facing penalties that do nothing to deter such behavior, illegal as it is.
Meanwhile, unionized workers in Arkansas make an average of $1.26 per hour more than their non-unionized counterparts, a 7.7 percent increase. If Arkansas were to see unionization merely climb back to 1983 levels, workers there would earn an estimated $166 million more in wages and salaries per year. And consider this: “If Arkansas’ workers were rewarded for 100 percent of their increases in labor productivity between 1980 and 2008…average wages would be $23.29 per hour — 42.4 percent higher than the average real wage in 2008.”
Last month, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that EFCA was unnecessary “because we have very enlightened management in this country.” Is that how Lincoln sees it as well, despite the myriad benefits that EFCA could bring to workers in her state?