Employee Free Choice: Beware of the Big Lie Bill
Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress made their Big Lie into a bill Wednesday, when Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) introduced the so-called Secret Ballot Protection Act.
Before we go further, let’s clear up the bill’s false implication right now:
The Employee Free Choice Act would not—repeat after me—would not, take away the secret ballot National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election process if workers seeking to form a union wanted to use it. The Employee Free Choice would ensure workers made the decision of whether to select a union via majority sign-up (card-check) or via ballot process. Choice is good. That’s one reason why we called it Employee Free Choice—because it would enable employees, not management, to make the decision of how to form a union.
The official goal of S. 1312 is to:
amend the National Labor Relations Act to ensure the right of employees to a secret-ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.
But the real objective of the DeMint-Enzi—and, of course, the autoworker-hating senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker—crowd is to force senators to be on record in support of it before the Employee Free Choice Act is up for a vote and to get free PR for their lies.
In announcing the bill, DeMint put out this gem:
‘Card check’ is completely unacceptable and un-American, and we must pass the Secret Ballot Protection Act to safeguard workers’ rights for good.
Since Enzi brought up “un-American,” let’s take a look at that term. Seems actions like providing health care for low-income children, ensuring America’s workers are paid overtime and have a safe workplace where they are not paid less because of their gender or race are all-American standards. But not so for DeMint. A quick look at his Senate voting record shows:
- DeMint voted at least seven times against expanding health care for children (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program).
- DeMint voted three times against protecting overtime pay for millions of workers.
- DeMint opposed workplace safety standards.
- DeMint voted against Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps ensure workers are not paid less because of gender or race.
The same day the Big Lie bill was introduced, 39 economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, issued a statement supporting the Employee Free Choice Act as key to getting our nation’s economy back on its feet. Their statement says in part:
Indeed, from 2000 to 2007, the income of the median working-age household fell by $2,000—an unprecedented decline. In that time, virtually all of the nation’s economic growth went to a small number of wealthy Americans. An important reason for the shift from broadly shared prosperity to growing inequality is the erosion of workers’ ability to form unions and bargain collectively.
Yet as Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of American Rights at Work, says:
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. This ploy is no surprise, as they have voted against raising the minimum wage, expanding children’s health insurance and ensuring worker safety.
Here’s another lie the bill’s sponsors are pushing out, this via Think Progress:
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.
As Think Progress points out, DeMint has this all wrong. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) 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.
The list of the Big Lie’s bill co-sponsors (all Republicans) reads like a who’s who of senators who will meet the wrath of working families in coming elections: Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Jim Bunning (Ky.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and David Vitter (La.).
Because this group doesn’t have enough votes to get the bill anywhere, it’s all about making noise. And spreading the Big Lie.