There You Go Again, Mr. Romney

romney foot in mouthAt least Mitt Romney is consistent about unions. He keeps on fibbing about them.

Recently, the presumptive Republican president nominee promised to “stop the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing.”

Federal law prohibits involuntary political contributions from union members.

On his official campaign website, Romney says President Obama “pursued ‘Card Check’ legislation that would have stripped workers of the right to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize.”

Okay, this one’s a half truth. President Obama does support the Employee Free Choice Act. But the measure would not strip “workers of the right to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize.”

Don’t take my word for it.

Says The Christian Science Monitor: “The proposed law gives workers a choice of forming a union through majority sign-up (‘card check’) or an election by secret ballot.”

Explains Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., a co-sponsor of EFTA:

“The Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish the National Labor Relations Board election process. That process would still be available under the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation simply enables workers to also form a union through majority sign-up if a majority prefers that method to the NLRB election process. Under current law, workers may only use the majority sign-up process if their employer agrees. The Employee Free Choice Act would make that choice — whether to use the NLRB election process or majority sign-up — a majority choice of the employees, not the employer.”

Under current labor law, if just 30 percent of workers say they want a secret ballot, they can have one, according to Dave Suetholz, a Louisville, Kentucky, labor lawyer. He said that won’t change under EFTA.

Anyway, unions and other supporters of the EFCA say the measure would restore the spirit of the Wagner Act of 1935, also called the National Labor Relations Act. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Wagner, D-N.Y., established two ways workers could organize a union: by secret ballot or by a majority of them signing a card saying they want a union, a process called “card check.”

Suetholz says the union-busting Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 enabled employers to require a secret ballot vote, too, even though a majority of workers inked sign up cards.

This two-step process permits employers to delay elections, thus giving them time to illegally or unethically fight off the union by

  • hiring professional union-busting consultants
  • making employees attend anti-union programs
  • forcing employees to meet one-on-one with their immediate supervisors, where the supervisors can put the squeeze on them not to vote for the union
  • threatening pro-union employees with their jobs and even firing them – while claiming, of course, that union support had nothing to do with the employee getting sacked.

berry craigBill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, isn’t surprised by Romney’s fudging of the facts on EFTA.

“Let’s face it, Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest one percent, yet thinks he can appeal to those that work for a living,” Londrigan says. “In order to do so, he will not let the truth get in the way.

“He lies about unions. He lies about legislation that helps workers organize and he lies about the Obama administration’s labor policies. In this ‘say anything’ political environment you can expect Romney to tell a bunch more whoppers about unions as he attempts to change his stripes in the eyes of those that work for a living.”

Suetholz says a big reason he started the Louisville-based Kentucky LaborInstitute was to counter truth stretching anti-union pols like Romney.

“Mitt Romney wants to preserve the ability of employers like Peabody Coal to terrorize workers for weeks leading up to the ‘secret ballot election,’” Suetholz says. “His concern is not for the workers, but rather for the employers who routinely thwart organizing drives.”

He adds that recently, a federal court issued an injunction against the Peabody Coal Co. in southern Illinois for firing leaders of a United Mine Workers of America organizing drive.

Berry Craig“The miners had over 90 percent of the union authorization cards signed when they petitioned for an election and by the end of the harrowing weeks of terror orchestrated by Peabody’s union - busting firm the miners barely won their election with just over 50 percent of the vote,” Suetholz says. “Romney’s objection to ‘card check’ is not based on concern for working people to choose their destiny and bring democracy to the workplace. His concern is for his crony owners who desperately attack any attempt by their workers to gain a voice at work.”

Berry Craig

Posted: Thursday, 10 May 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on May 11, 2012
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.