Changing the Rules of the Game - Washington Insider
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Changing the Rules of the Game

By Christian Klein

Article Date: 07-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


When it comes to Democrats' efforts to modify employment laws, card check is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA or “card check”) has gotten a lot of attention in recent months. The bill, which is pending in both the House and Senate, would take away the right to secret ballots in union organizing elections, impose mandatory binding arbitration on the collective bargaining process in certain cases, and drive up penalties for employers who commit labor law violations.

As a member of the steering committee of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, AED is playing a leading role in the card check debate and equipment distributors have sent scores of e-mails and letters to Capitol Hill this year urging lawmakers to reject EFCA. (If you haven’t already, be sure to check out AED’s Card Check Action Center at www.aednet.org/government/card-check-action-center.cfm.)

But card check is merely the best publicized example of legislation liberal Democrats are pushing to change the relationship between workers and employers. Another bill you might have heard about is the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Obama signed earlier this year and which makes it easier for employees to bring discrimination-related lawsuits against their employers. There are many similar and potentially costly proposals pending before House and Senate committees. Here are some examples:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act (HR 824) introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by lowering the threshold for coverage from 50 employees to 25. It would also allow an employee covered by FMLA to take “parental involvement leave” (up to four hours during any 30-day period, and up to 24 hours during any 12-month period) to participate in activities sponsored by a school or community organization in which the employee’s child or grandchild is involved.
  • The Healthy Families Act (HR 2460 and S 1152) sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would require companies with 15 or more employees to give employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees could use the sick leave for a wide variety of purposes ranging from seeking treatment for physical or mental illnesses or injuries and caring for a sick child, parent, spouse, or friend, to participating in legal proceedings if the employee was the victim of a sexual assault or stalking.
  • The Family Leave Insurance Act (HR 1723) introduced by House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark (D-CA) would create a new government program to provide 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave to American workers. A new .2 percent tax on wages paid by both employees and employers would allegedly offset the costs of the new program.
Ethical companies already provide generous leave packages and good working conditions. Those businesses are rewarded with productive employees who value their jobs and work hard to keep customers happy. Ultimately, those businesses thrive. But mandating benefits is a whole other question. Well intentioned though some of the proposals described above may be, the sponsors seem to be oblivious to the fact that we’re in a recession and unemployment is higher than it’s been in 25 years. Imposing costly new mandates on small companies in the middle of an economic crisis isn’t going to help workers; more likely, it’ll cost them their jobs.

But don’t give up just yet. If we’ve learned anything from the card check debate it’s that there are moderate Democrats who are willing to listen when the business community takes the time to engage them. If you weigh in, you can make a difference. Visit AEDaction.org, see whether your elected representatives are supporting these bills, and let them you know what you think.


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