Would Unions Be Good For Small Businesses?

One of the administration’s goals is to make it much easier for unions to organize employees at our nation’s firms. “Card Check” was high on the legislative agenda. President Obama made a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board of a former lawyer for the The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest financial supporters of the President’s election. Presidents of the SEIU and the AFL-CIO were among the most frequent visitors to the White House (while ABC News reported that a number of the President’s Cabinet Secretaries had had no direct contact with the President in the first two years of his term).

Then came Wisconsin.

The tactics of the unions were on display, teachers abandoning their students, dragging some out of class to engage in demonstrations they didn’t understand. Doctors were writing bogus excuses so teachers could be paid by taxpayers while they occupied the Capital building, outsiders were “imported” to join the demonstrations, local business owners threatened if they didn’t support the union agenda. No small business could stand a chance against such tactics (90% of all employer firms have fewer than 20 employees). The elections (judicial and legislative) made it clear that the people are fed up with the tactics, but the unions continue their pressure.

If you can’t get the votes, there’s always the regulatory route. In the view of the most recent appointee, the NLRB could impose “card check” even without Congressional authorization. Well, now the NLRB has given Boeing’s union the power to decide where Boeing can make planes, instructing a judge to prevent Boeing from building planes in a new South Carolina plant because building a plant outside of the Puget Sound area was “discouraging membership in a labor organization” and thus a violation of Federal Law (WSJ, Bloomberg, 4/20). Check out how much control the teachers unions exercise – they “write the job descriptions”, not the managers. Unions decide how many workers are needed to tighten a bolt etc. Managers are losing the ability to define the jobs that need to be done, with more and more dictated by unions when they are present. Why would this be good for our small businesses that can be destroyed by Wisconsin-style tactics?

Apparently the Administration thinks the Wisconsin spectacle would be good for them.

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William Dunkelberg is an Economic Strategist, Boenning & Scattergood and Chief Economist, National Federation of Independent Business.