AOI forecasts seven union agenda items

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By J.L. Wilson,
By Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

Last week, The Standard, Portland Business Alliance and Associated Oregon Industries hosted Glenn Spencer, Executive Director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative, US Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Spencer gave a presentation to members on the federal legislative and regulatory agenda of Organized Labor.

Organized Labor facing major challenges. Unions across the US are facing major challenges which are driving its legislative agenda. The primary challenge faced by unions today is declining membership, which has fallen from 35 percent of the workforce in the 1950’s to just over 12 percent today.  Most notably, the failure of unions to recruit private sector workers has translated into just 7.2 percent union membership in the private sector compared to 37 percent unionization among government workers. In addition to membership problems, most union pension plans are now in “endangered” or “critical” status, meaning they will have difficulty paying out promised benefits.

Unions stepping up political activity. To address their lack of clout in the American workplace, unions are stepping up their political activity in order to force employers to recognize unions. In 2008 alone, unions collectively spent over $450 million on politics. The SEIU alone accounted for $85 million. Since the last election, the SEIU has created a $10 million “retribution” fund to punish Democrats who waver on union issues. To date, unions have pledged at least $150 million for the 2010 campaigns. They’ve also established a permanent campaign of lobbying and advertising in Washington, DC to drive their agenda.

Union priorities. The political agenda of Organized Labor includes substantial changes in labor law through both Congress and various federal agencies. To meet their pressing challenges, unions have decided that edicts from Washington, DC represent their best hope for revival.

•    Card Check.
The unions are still hoping to pass a Card Check bill that would effectively eliminate private ballots in union elections and allow a government arbitrator to impose a union contract on employers after just 120 days of negotiations. Such a government-imposed contract would cover wages, benefits, work rules and could even compel employers to shore up failing union pension plans.

•    National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The new 3-to-2 “union friendly” majority on the NLRB is poised to overturn many previous decisions that gave deference to the secret ballot and broadened the definition of “supervisor.” The NLRB is also looking at new rules to shorten the time period for union elections to as little as five days; establish off-site internet voting; restrict employer speech rights; and require recognition of “mini” unions that represent just a minority of workers.

•    Weaken employer resistance. A Patriot Employers Act would give tax credits to companies that sign “neutrality” clauses. A Department of Labor rulemaking would force employers to file publicly-available financial disclosure forms if they retain lawyers or consultants during a union organizing campaign.

•    Impose unions on the construction industry. The Obama administration has already issued an executive order promoting Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on federal construction projects. PLA’s require non-union contractors working on federal construction projects to pay union wage scales and pay into union benefit funds. The administration is also considering requiring PLA’s on any construction project that uses federal funds.

•    Family Medical Leave Act. Proposes laws would expand FMLA to cover small businesses currently exempt and require FMLA to be paid. Other proposed laws would require employers to offer separate pools of paid sick leave that could be taken without notice or documentation.

•    Ergonomics. The Department of Labor wants to impose new ergonomics regulations covering work activities like lifting, turning and repetitive motion.

•    Increased Department of Labor (DOL) enforcement against employers. Even during the economic recession, the Department of Labor has been busy hiring more than 400 new OSHA and Wage and Hour inspectors. More than 90 new regulatory actions are underway. A new mandatory DOL compliance plan called Plan, Prevent, and Protect will require employers to create a checklist of all DOL regulations that apply to them, create a plan to ensure compliance, prove that they are implementing the plan, and report to DOL on results.

AOI will track these federal activities and report them to you in an effort bring these job-killing laws and regulations to the attention of lawmakers and employers.