Stand up for Montanans, not big labor


Since the 2008 elections, we've seen a battle at both the state and federal level over the power of organized labor and its effort to forcibly unionize workers. Big Labor has found a president who will carry its water, pushing legislation and enacting regulatory changes that favor union bosses over workers and job creators. The extent of their influence became all-too apparent in the national controversy that culminated with Obama's labor relations board prohibiting a Boeing manufacturing facility from being located in a state not favored by Big Labor.

But this high-profile event is just the tip of the iceberg — President Obama's three years in office have been defined by his efforts to pay back union bosses for bankrolling his 2008 campaign, having spent half a billion dollars to get him elected. The recent recess appointments of two union allies to the National Labor Relations Board — in direct defiance of the Constitution — is just the latest example of the giveaways.

Previous to that, Obama's labor board authorized the formation of "micro-units" or small collective bargaining units which will result in severe discord in places of work with various unions working against each other in search of enhanced benefits with the employer stuck in the middle. The increased costs associated with managing multiple labor contracts is bad news for Montana businesses.

The unelected government bureaucrats at the NLRB have also decided to close the amount of time over which union elections take place, hurrying the process so labor bosses can ambush business owners and provide them little to no time to respond. Even concerns about the integrity of the election proceedings can no longer be raised until after the vote has taken place. That creates a situation where a collective bargaining unit can be formed before the employer even has any real chance to meaningfully address the unionization of his or her business.

Since 2007, Big Labor has been working feverishly to enact the Employee "Forced" Choice Act, which eliminates the secret ballot and allows government to dictate contract terms to employees and employers. Since Congress rejected this deeply flawed bill, Obama's friends in the labor movement have decided to co-opt executive agencies like the NLRB and have them enact EFCA by fiat.

At the state level, the resurgent push for right-to-work laws has been a bright spot for employee rights even though labor bosses have fought it every step of the way. There is no debate that the economies in right-to-work states have outpaced Montana's in the past decade.

Thankfully, workers and business owners also have allies in Congress who have successfully opposed some of these forced unionization schemes.

For instance, the Employee Rights Act, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, would be a big help for Montana workers who want to fight forced unionization. This legislation requires that unions hold a recertification vote every three years. Currently, new workers may be required to join a union they don't want and may never get a chance to vote on the issue.

As we recently saw with the dispute over union contracts at an Albertson's in Kalispell, union bosses will do whatever they can to maintain an advantage and keep union dues flowing into their pockets. It certainly didn't help workers that labor friendly bureaucrats at the NLRB swooped in to bail out the union bosses.

There are other pieces of legislation that have been introduced as well, such as the Representation Fairness Restoration Act. It would disallow the formation of "micro-units" preserving the integrity of the workplace. And recently, the U.S. House passed the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act in a bipartisan vote. The legislation would prohibit "ambush" elections for taking place and prevent "micro-units" from being created.

Of course, legislative efforts to help workers and business owners fight the encroachment of Big Labor will find resistance by President Obama and other recipients of labor's largesse in Congress. That's why it's so important we hold our elected officials to account and ask them to tell us where they stand on these issues.

I hope we can count on our congressional delegation to stand up for workplace fairness. It's time for our elected officials to tell Montanans whether they support home state workers or will kowtow to out-of-state labor bosses.

(State Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R- Kalispell, represents Senate District 3. He is the chairman of the Senate Taxation Committee.)


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