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Card Check: Bad Idea at the Wrong Time

This afternoon, April 14, in Richmond, hundreds of Virginia business leaders and employees will gather in opposition to the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, better known as the “card check” bill. Defeating the legislation is the single most important issue for the Virginia business community.

Today’s rally at the Omni Richmond Hotel will launch Virginians for Workplace Fairness, a coalition of more than 50 business groups united in opposition to the bill. Our goal is to both educate and advocate to our elected officials on the issue. What’s extraordinary about this issue is that something so bad for businesses is even being seriously considered by Congress.
Here’s what the bill does. First, it does away with the secret ballot in union elections by giving workers the ability to organize simply by getting a majority of workers to sign a card. So a fair, democratic process with a secret ballot process could be replaced with harassment, pressure and intimidation tactics.

Other parts of the bill are just as bad, if not worse. Noteworthy is a provision that gives a government-appointed board the power of binding arbitration to dictate the terms of an employment contact without the approval of management or labor.

So what does this mean in practical terms?  Because arbitrators notoriously are known for “splitting the difference” in these types of matters, it will incentivize both parties to stake out extreme positions and not compromise during the initial period of negotiations. The government would then create a contract between a private business and its employees for up to two years.  This is certainly not the Virginia way!

The current system requires both parties to reach agreement to form a new employment contract. Unions complain that employers don’t have to seriously negotiate. But let’s consider for a moment what’s at stake for the business owner. Let’s say you’ve built up a small business that competes with less expensive products from China and you’re struggling just to stay afloat.  It’s the owner who is in the best position to determine how much they can pay their workers and still make enough of a profit to stay in business, not the government.

While there will never be a good time for Card Check, now is a particularly bad time. Companies are struggling enough with the current economic crisis to add this additional anti-competitive burden.

So to recap, here’s what you get with the Card Check bill: more unions, higher costs for businesses, less competitiveness for our businesses which will result in long-term job losses. So why are we even having to talk about this, especially in Virginia, where such basic freedoms as the secret ballot and voluntary associations are cherished?

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