Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Employee Free Choice Act, Peter Kirsanow, and the NAACP


I came across an article in the National Review on the Employer Free Choice Act, written by Peter Kirsanow of the US Commission on Civil Rights. Longtime readers of the blog may remember that I had written previously about Peter Kirsanow's reappointment to the Civil Rights Commission HERE wherein I noted that:

Commissioner Kirsanow was chosen to serve as a federal Civil Rights watchdog, not because of his Civil Rights background or work in the field, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Kirsanow was a partner with the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff LLP which focused on representing management in employment-related litigation. Placing Kirsanow on the Civil rights Commission is analogous to placing a tobacco lobbyist in the Office of the Surgeon General.

Now Commissioner Kirsanow has written a predictable screed in opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA. It is predictable in that Mr. Kirsanow's record is distinguished more by its dogged fidelity to ideology than by its demonstration of fair judgment or commitment to principle. In fact, when President Bush used a recess appointment to name Kirsanow to the National Labor Relations Board, Senator Ted Kennedy issued a statement reading in part, "Mr. Kirsanow's record as a Member of the Commission on Civil Rights raises serious doubts about his fitness for high office and his commitment to fairness for all Americans."

In fact, the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs reported that when Peter Kirsanow was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President Bush in December 2001, the Commission’s Chairperson told the White House that it would take federal marshals to seat Mr. Kirsanow. The majority on the Commission fought his appointment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Now Mr. Kirsanow has taken his opposition to the EFCA public. His argument rests squarely with the provision that would allow workers to unionize by majority sign-up. He postulates that by affording workers the option of using the majority sign-up process, the secret ballot election process would become a thing of the past. And that if that happened workers rights would be infringed upon because they would be forced to make public declarations concerning the desire to or not to unionize...

Mr. Kirsanow then (ironically) goes on to evoke civil rights imagery in a couple homespun hypothetical narratives designed to recast his union-busting effort as some noble or historically relevant cause.

"Four decades ago, black voters in the Deep South and other regions of the country were subject to threats, intimidation and harassment for attempting to cast a secret ballot." Kirsanow wrote...
Oh. No. You. Didn't.

Silly Rabbit...

It actually comes as little surprise that Commissioner Kirsanow would argue against a bill intended to allow workers to unionize without employer intimidation.

The EFCA is a bi-partisan bill, introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller with 233 co-sponsors, and introduced in the Senate by Senator Ted Kennedy and 46 co-sponsors, which would allow workers to form Unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure labor contracts with their employers in a reasonable amount of time through negotiation, mediation, or binding arbitration, and toughen penalties against employers who violate workers rights.

The bill passed the House by a 241-185 margin but was stalled in the Senate by a cloture motion and remanded back to the House Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions where it sits alongside the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Employment non-Discrimination Act, the Student Loan Sunshine Act, and a hundred other acts and resolutions that have no scheduled hearings.

The NAACP supports the Employee Free Choice Act. We recognize that union workers currently earn 26% more in median weekly wages than non-union workers; unionized women earn 31% more than their non-union counterparts, and black union workers earn 29% more than non-union African Americans. Furthermore, 75% of union workers have health benefits, compared to 49% of non-union workers. 69% of union workers have short-term disability coverage, compared to 30% of their non-union counterparts. Finally, 82% of union workers get life insurance, compared with 51% of non-union workers.

The impact of unions – ensuring that all working Americans are treated well and share in the prosperity – cannot be overstated. Despite the continuing strength and advocacy power of unions, however, some employers continue to treat workers poorly, not paying them a fair wage or providing them with necessary benefits: the purchasing power of workers’ wages is 5% below where it stood 30 years ago. CEO pay has continued to rise and is currently more than 1,000 times the earnings of the average worker. The richest 13,000 US families have nearly as much income as the poorest 200 million combined. And some employers continue to fight the legitimate organization of unions. 70% of American employers in manufacturing threaten to close the plant if workers choose a union. Furthermore, in the 1950’s, when 30% of workers belonged to unions, only a few hundred workers suffered retaliation for trying to organize a union; in 1969, the number or workers suffering retaliation was just over 6,000 and by the 1990’s more than 20,000 workers each year were victims of discrimination when they tried to organize a union.

Now because the motion for cloture failed, the bill is essentially dead unless either 9 Senators change their votes which seems unlikely for this lame-duck session. However, it is very likely that we will see this bill, along with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, resurface in a slightly modified form in the next Congress.

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Jung/Myers Briggs

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
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