During a Sunday evening conference call with a group of Iowans, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney warned voters that President Obama wants to force everyone into organized unions. Twice during the 30 minute phone call, Romney raised the spectre of President Obama and Democrats reintroducing the Employee Free Choice Act, which was last introduced in 2009.
EFCA would have introduced “card check” votes in the workplace, making it easier for employees to decide whether or not to unionize. If 50 percent of workers sign a statement of support of organizing, that union would be granted bargaining power with the employer. The bill would strip employers of their ability to force their workers into a full union organizing election if they don’t like the results of a signature campaign.
As it stands, employers can legally force their workers to attend anti-union meetings and one-on-one “discussions” with their superiors ahead of any vote on unionization, an intimidation tactic that succeeds in derailing many unionization efforts. Stricter penalties for failure to negotiate a contract with a new union and for discriminating against any worker who supports a union would have also been included.
Even though EFCA never made it past the House in 2009, that didn’t stop Romney from ringing the alarm:
Romney brought up card check twice, unprompted, when answering Iowans’ questions about other topics. Early in the call, Romney mentioned it when describing his five-point plan for creating jobs.
“We’ve got to champion small business,” he said. “Small business is getting crushed under the president’s program with higher and higher regulation on small business, with higher taxes on small business, and by forcing people to join unions that don’t want to. That’s something known as card check. I think that’s a bad idea.”
But EFCA does not force anyone to do anything. It simply gives workers the ability to more easily organize themselves into a union if a majority of them choose to do so. One study found that “employers threatened to close plants in 57 percent of [union] campaigns and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent,” while firing pro-union workers 34 percent of the time.
Unions have simply become Republican politicians’ new favorite straw man, with the GOP invoking them to attack everything from teachers’, police officers’ and firefighters’ compensation to the rebounding auto industry.
Romney’s new anti-union rhetoric comes days after a new analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund which shows that unionization has a positive impact on economic mobility, creating more opportunities for Americans to work their way out of the 47 percent and move into a higher income bracket than their parents.