In June of 2009, the unemployment rate surged to 9.5 percent for the first time in almost 26 years. Despite some ups and downs, today the unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent and 14.6 million Americans are unemployed and searching for work. I see the evidence of this every time I travel back home to Minnesota: inevitably, the first concern my constituents raise is jobs – or the lack thereof. People want to know: Where are the jobs and what is Washington doing to help create them?
Unfortunately, Washington is doing more harm than good by creating a cloud of uncertainty that is hurting job creators and the workers they hope to hire. Tax hikes, record deficit spending, and increasing government control over the economy are forcing small businesses and entrepreneurs to the sidelines of economic activity. In particular, a proposal simmering in Congress, known as “card check,” would replace a secret ballot election with a public sign-up process for workers deciding whether to join a union. As a result, the bill would drive up costs on business, increase workplace conflict, and lead to fewer jobs.
The threat of this proposal is very real. Just yesterday, President Obama promised labor bosses he would remain in the fight to pass card check. Although the proposal has been unable to garner enough support to become law, there are persistent rumors that Democrats plan to convene an end-of-year “lame duck” session in which they could muscle through unpopular measures like card check before the 112th Congress is gaveled into session in January 2011.
It is no secret Big Labor invested heavily to produce a Democrat-controlled Washington. Nor is anyone surprised to learn they’re planning a repeat performance this fall, with two unions alone announcing plans to spend nearly $100 million to help Democrats hold their seats in Congress. And what do they expect from the Democrats they are helping to elect? At the top of their agenda is card check, which has been cleverly – indeed, deceptively – named the Employee Free Choice Act.
Secret ballots are a fundamental principle of American democracy. They remove intimidation and coercion from the voting booth and allow men and women to vote their conscience freely. Despite the bill’s lofty name, removing the secret ballot from union elections will give workers anything but freedom. If a secret ballot is good enough for electing Presidents and Members of Congress, it is should be good enough for workers trying to make ends meet and provide for their families.
While leaders of Big Labor claim this proposal is necessary to economic recovery, the facts suggest otherwise. One academic study estimated this proposal would cost our economy 1.5 million jobs in the first year if the unionization rate increased by just three percentage points as a result of card check’s public sign-up and forced government contracts. We have lost more than seven million jobs since the recession began. Card check would wipe out the job gains we have seen in recent months and the hopes of many unemployed Americans looking for work.
Card check is part of a disturbing culture of union favoritism that puts the whims of union bosses ahead of the best interests of rank-and-file workers. Already the Obama administration has weakened commonsense rules that would have helped shed light on how unions spend members’ dues. At the same time, the administration has called for Project Labor Agreements to be used on large federal construction projects, giving unionized firms a major advantage while driving up costs for taxpayers. These job-killing policies make American businesses less competitive and less able to expand and hire new workers.
Although Democrats have controlled all the levers of power in Washington since January of last year, Republicans have consistently offered better solutions to the challenges facing our country. One such solution is the Secret Ballot Protection Act. This proposal will ensure no one takes away a worker’s right to a secret ballot, protecting workers against coercion or intimidation at the ballot box and eliminating a union’s ability to force an employer to agree to card-check recognition.
Today, at AmericaSpeakingOut.com, I encourage you to let your voice be heard on this important issue. America Speaking Out is an innovative tool bringing the wisdom and wishes of the American people to their nation’s capital. Over the next several weeks, House Republicans will use every resource available to hear from the American people and use their commonsense ideas to draft a new governing agenda for our country. With your support at America Speaking Out, we can put forward a new agenda that protects workers and provides employers the certainty they need to create jobs.
When the Department of Labor releases the unemployment numbers for the month of July, we will learn whether job creators are back in the game or still seeing clouds of uncertainty. With your help we can take card check off the table and give job creators a reason to move forward confidently on behalf of their businesses and American workers.