Setting the Stage in DC to Advance Harmful Agenda
Big Labor Has Found an “In” to Activate Unions in NC
After years in a defensive crouch, organized labor sees an opportunity in the upcoming elections for action in Washington, DC to increase unionism – from seemingly unlimited days off to giving government the authority to set workers’ wages. Big Labor is pushing an aggressive agenda that could have lasting damaging effects on businesses in North Carolina. While unions may or may not be successful in pushing their priorities in our state’s legislature, policies they are pushing in Congress will have similar effects on the business climate in North Carolina.
Evidence in Notable Labor Quotes
Union membership may be declining in the private sector, but the power of the big unions in politics is not. Unions are saying their endorsements will carry more weight than ever in the upcoming election season, given how motivated their members are. Because their membership rolls have been shrinking for decades, unions recognize that their best path to power right now is through the political process. So unions, failing to see the kind of success they want in organizing workplaces, are investing big in candidates and elections with the ultimate goal being to radically change how the law treats their membership campaigns.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeny sees the upcoming elections as “a mandate for a union agenda.” “Labor is in a good position. They are a major player in the turnout effect in elections
with many close races. When they weigh in, they are going to be listened to.” (Norm Ornstein, Congressional Analyst of the American Enterprise Institute)
“With one more election, we will have enough power to make a substantial difference. The business community and the whole world can see it coming.” (Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives)
High Cost of Labor Agenda will Migrate South
Due to the increasing influence of unions on the political process and elections, the atmosphere in Washington for businesses could be stormy in 2009. Over the last several years, unions have thrown their support (financial and other) behind candidates for Congressional seats and President to set the stage for what they consider their ultimate victory – and this year is no different. If the gap between the minority and majority parties in the US Senate widens after this year’s elections – as unions intend for it too – then it will be more difficult for pro-jobs, pro-business advocates to modify or defeat initiatives harmful to business being advanced by those in the majority. Add to that a union-friendly White House just waiting to sign legislation like “card check” and employers could be up against an impenetrable machine.
Here are just a few workplace bills that have been percolating in Congress this year that will likely sail to passage if Big Labor gets its “trifecta” with the 2008 elections (trifecta is how unions have described their anticipated “take over” of the US Senate, US House and White House). All of these bills, if passed, will increase costs for businesses in North Carolina:
Equal Not Good Enough Anymore Act
Apparently the Equal Pay Act, which is already in place and mandates equal pay for men and women performing equal work, is not good enough anymore for Big Labor. Labor groups have introduced the “Fair Pay Act,” which moves beyond the concept of equal pay and instead proposes comparable value. Comparable value compares occupations and it would be left to the discretion of agencies and the Courts to set compensation and decide subjectively which jobs are of equal value to society. So, to be clear, the labor movement is asserting that “equal” does not equate to “fair.” Could it be because “fair” is a subjective term, while “equal” is an objective term. There cannot be disagreement over “equal” but now unions want government officials to determine “fairness.”
Another detrimental effect of the “Equal Not Good Enough Anymore Act” (otherwise known as the Fair Pay Act, which – of course – sounds pretty innocuous) would be the dismantling of the statute of limitations protection. The bill would reduce employer defenses under the Equal Pay Act and make available unlimited punitive and compensatory damages for violations, even if they are unintentional, for a longer period of time by repealing the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitation serve an important purpose in ensuring that workplace disputes are resolved in a timely manner while evidence is fresh and witnesses are available. “If you eliminate the statute of limitations, and you make it unending, you may be violating the rights of the individuals who are being sued, whether they are a man or woman. I don’t think you are doing anything to help the rights of women, except maybe help trial lawyers and others in that profession.” (US Senator John McCain)
More Time Off Act
Expanding significantly on the current prohibition of employment discrimination based on religious belief, a bill has been proposed that will broaden the scope of religious practices employers would need to accommodate. In particular, the bill would make it especially difficult for an employer to deny a request based on schedule or dress or appearance codes. The accommodation language included in the bill moves the line too far, and could cause a significant burden on businesses to enact policies that will allow absences, etc.
Respect for diverse religious beliefs in our society is important to our business community. Employers are already recognizing and accommodating religious freedom under the federal law already in place that prohibits discrimination based on religion. In the case of the current law, employers are required to accommodate an employee’s religious observance unless such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The proposed new law puts significant limitations on how an “undue hardship” is defined, resulting in employers being subjected to endless accommodation, regardless of how it would affect its business operations. This bill appears to make those difficult accommodations mandatory for all employers, which raises issues of practicability and fairness since the courts have already broadly defined “religious practices.”
Family Leave for Distant Cousins Amendments
Currently the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee after the birth or adoption of a child, and/or to care for the employee’s or family member’s serious health condition. Amendments to the Act have been introduced by Big Labor that would expand the leave beyond “family” to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, adult child, sibling, grandparent, etc. Broadening the definition of “family” will continuously leave employers dealing with the uncertainly that will result from an evolving subjective standard.
The proposed amendments would also extend FMLA requirements to small businesses with more than 25 employees (currently the Act only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees). Our small business community particularly needs competitive policies that will encourage growth and job creation instead of additional burdensome costly regulations.
Organized Business Community Can Stop Organized Labor
Organized labor clearly sees an opportunity in Congress to advance an aggressive agenda – one that includes major initiatives such as “card check” alongside seemingly harmless initiatives such as those in this e-newsletter that would drive up the cost of doing business in America. Only an organized business community can stop organized labor. If you are interested in becoming part of a growing group of Chamber members working to thwart Big Labor’s efforts in DC and our state, click here.