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End of American enterprise system exaggerated

The end of the American enterprise system has been greatly exaggerated.

Until last week, unions held exactly the number of votes needed to guarantee passage by the U.S. Senate of the Employee “Free Choice” Act. (It really should be called the No-Choice Act, since it would deprive employees of their right to vote in secret ballot elections.)

But, in a sudden turnaround, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, announced he will not support EFCA. He said the bill is “very difficult for many reasons.”

Specter pointed out that passage of the bill may drive more American business overseas. He also expressed concern about evidence presented during hearings that union officials intimidate employees by visiting their homes and using strong-arm tactics that can only be countered by secret ballot elections.

Specter said the secret ballot is “the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a democratic society.” John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, was not swayed. He said unions will be “escalating” their campaign in the coming weeks. You heard it straight from the horse’s mouth: America’s union motto is “more intimidation — less democratization.”

Specter seemingly has a crystal ball. The day after he withdrew his support for EFCA, Federal Express, which employs 144,000 workers worldwide, announced it intended to withdraw from ordering 15 new Boeing cargo planes if Congress passes a bill that would make Federal Express subject to the National Labor Relations Board (the agency that would be responsible for enforcing EFCA). The loss of this order would cost Boeing millions of dollars and result in the layoff of thousands of Boeing employees. Naturally, Ken Hall, vice president for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, labeled FedEx’s decision “blackmail.”

How do you think Ken Hall characterizes union political contributions of more than $1 billion during the last election cycle? Mr. Hall, can you say “bribe”?

On a lighter note, it turns out that even employees of unions feel cheated by their bosses. Last week, employees of the Service Employees International Union picketed their own office after the union decided to lay off 75 employees. The president of the Union of Union Representatives (yes, there really is such a thing as a union for employees of unions) said that the SEIU “is supposed to be at the forefront of the progressive movement, but it can’t seem to follow its own ideology.”

How the worm turns!

Bill Clifton is a management employment lawyer in Macon with the national labor firm of Constangy Brooks & Smith.

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