Newt Gingrich: Wrong On The Employee Free Choice Act

April 22, 2009 12:52 pm ET

On April 22, 2009, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote an op-ed in Politico arguing against the Employee Free Choice Act, which earlier this year he called "a mortal threat to American freedom." However, Gingrich's fear mongering ignores the facts: The Employee Free Choice Act will protect the rights of American workers and give the economy a much-needed boost.

The Employee Free Choice Act Does NOT Eliminate The Secret Ballot

Gingrich: "Most of the criticism of the outlandishly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act has centered on the card check provision, which would eliminate the right of Americans to vote in privacy and without fear of intimidation and reprisal when deciding to join a union." [Politico, 4/22/09]

CSM: "The Proposed Law Gives Workers A Choice Of Forming A Union Through Majority Sign-Up ("Card Check") Or An Election By Secret Ballot." As reported in 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. The current election process, governed by the National Labor Relations Board, strongly favors employers, unions say.  The bill also beefs up penalties for employers that discriminate against workers for their union-organizing activity, including treble back pay for workers found to have been illegally fired." [Christian Science Monitor, 3/11/09]

 PolitiFact: Employees "Could Ask for a Secret-Ballot Election." According to PolitiFact.com, "[j]ust like before, if unions got more than 30 percent of the employees to sign cards, they could ask for a secret-ballot election." Additionally, the site wrote, "As a practical matter, secret-ballot elections would be far less frequent if the Employee Free Choice Act were passed. But they would still take place under certain circumstances..." [PolitiFact.com, 3/24/09]

The Intimidation Comes From Businesses, Not Unions

Gingrich: "Most of the criticism of the outlandishly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act has centered on the card check provision, which would eliminate the right of Americans to vote in privacy and without fear of intimidation and reprisal when deciding to join a union." [Politico, 4/22/09]

EPI: "Pro-Union Workers Can Be Forced To Attend" Anti-Union Meetings. According to the Economic Policy Institute: "Anti-union campaign managers can campaign with every worker, throughout the workplace, and around-the-clock. Pro-union employees can campaign only on break time. Management can require employees to attend 'captive audience' anti-union meetings. Pro-union workers can be forced to attend - but denied the opportunity to speak out. Management can post anti-union messages on the workplace's walls and bulletin boards. But pro-union employees cannot make use of these facilities." [Economic Policy Institute, 1/29/09]

House Labor Committee: Workers Attempting To Form A Union Have "A One In Five Chance Of Getting Fired." Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, notes: "Unlike employers, a union organizer can't fire you, cut your pay, or deny you a promotion. But, if you're an employee actively trying to organize your coworkers, you have a one in five chance of getting fired by your employer for simply exercising your democratic rights. Even a pro-business group could only find 42 cases of union deception and/or coercion in obtaining card signatures over the last 70 years. Contrast that with roughly 30,000 workers who received back pay from employers that had fired or illegally intimidated them for each year of the Bush administration. It's clear where the problem lies." [House Committee on Education and Labor, "EFCA: Fact vs. Myth," accessed 4/14/09]

  • NLRB: One Worker Every Eighteen Minutes Disciplined Or Fired For Union Activity. The National Labor Relations Board found that more than 29,000 people were disciplined or fired for union activity during fiscal year 2007. According to the Economic Policy Institute, that amounts to "one worker every 18 minutes." [NLRB Annual Report 2007, accessed 4/14/09; Economic Policy Institute, 1/29/09]

Arbitration Prevents Stalling And Bargaining In Bad Faith

Gingrich: "However, it is another component of this legislation that could prove to be the most damaging to our economy and our freedoms.  If passed, [the Employee Free Choice Act] would impose mandatory, binding arbitration by government bureaucrats in the National Labor Relations Board if employers and union organizers cannot reach an agreement." [Politico, 4/22/09]

Talks Can Go On Without Arbitration "As Long As Both Parties Feel The Other Is Negotiating In Good Faith." According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, "[t]he arbitration option does not mean that labor or management will be rushed into unfair agreements.  All time limits under the Employee Free Choice Act can be extended by mutual consent of the parties - giving the parties flexibility to use the time frames that fit their specific needs.  Voluntary negotiations can proceed as slowly or quickly as necessary as long as both parties feel that the other is negotiating in good faith.  The legislation would allow either party to seek mediation assistance after 90 days of negotiations.  After 30 days of mediation, either party can request binding arbitration." [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 3/09]

The Possibility Of Arbitration Encourages Voluntary Settlements. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, "[m]ediation and arbitration prevents either party from stalling and bargaining in bad faith.  The threat of arbitration - not the actual use of the procedure - tends to encourage parties to voluntarily settle.  Available research shows that 70 to 90 percent of American public sector contracts covered under arbitration laws are reached without a binding arbitration award."  [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 3/09]

  • MIT Study: Even After A Majority Votes For A Union, Many Units Fail To Get A Contract. According to a recent MIT study, "[o]nly 56 percent of units in which a majority of employees voted for a union and were certified for bargaining by the NLRB were successful in reaching a first contract. Only 38 percent of such units reached a contract within one year." [MIT's Institute of Work and Employment Research, March 2008]

Arbitration Does Not Inflate Wages

Gingrich: "Worse, the NLRB is staffed by political appointees, who in this administration will naturally favor union leaders.  If the union negotiators know that NLRB will have a bias toward their viewpoint, there will be little to no incentive for them to negotiate with the business in good faith.  They will make unreasonable demands as a tool for forcing the decision to be made by the government, instead of through negotiation." [Politico, 4/22/09]

Wage Increases Awarded In Arbitration "Tend To Be Very Similar To Those Won Through Voluntary Negotiations."  According to American Rights at Work, "[t]he passage of an arbitration law has little to no effect on wages or benefits.  For instance, a 2001 study of police officer salaries from 32 states and the District of Columbia found that there was no statistically significant evidence that the presence of an arbitration statute systematically affects wages. Wage increases and contract terms resulting from arbitration tend to be very similar to those won through voluntary negotiations.  Arbitrators are normally bound to base their decisions on factors outlined in the law, such as the comparability of wages with similar jobs in the region, as well as the public employer's ability to pay. [American Rights At Work, 12/08]

The Employee Free Choice Act Is Good For Business

Gingrich: "Simply stated, many businesses would close..." [Politico, 4/22/09]

SBA: Unionization Reduces The Probability of Business Closures.  A 2005 study by the U.S. Small Business Administration concluded: "Surprisingly, state unionization rates significantly reduce the probability of business closures." [U.S. Small Business Administration, "A Spatial Model of the Impact of State Bankruptcy Exemptions on Entrepreneurship," 7/05]

The Employee Free Choice Act Will Not Increase Unemployment

Gingrich: "...millions of jobs would be lost and unemployment would rise significantly." [Politico, 4/22/09]

Higher Union Wages Can Help Create New Jobs.  The Los Angeles Economic Roundtable submitted an op-ed stating: "There are 800,000 union workers in L.A. - 17 percent of the labor force - and their wage differential amounts to an additional $7.2 billion a year in wages. As these workers spend their wages on homes, cappuccinos, movie tickets and child care, their additional buying power creates 64,800 jobs and $11 billion in economic output that would be missing from L.A.'s economy if they earned nonunion wages." [Los Angeles Business Roundtable op-ed, 9/1/08; emphasis added]

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