In a weakened economy plagued with business failures and rising unemployment rates, the Alliance for Worker Freedom battles against organized labor’s efforts to exert greater control over business owners and efforts to restrict employees’ rights.
The alliance’s Executive Director Brian M. Johnson said, “We run the longest and oldest labor reform working group in Washington, D.C., and we are the one and only organization in the entire country that covers all aspects of the labor reform movement.”
Founded in 2003 as a special project by Americans for Tax Reform, the AWF provides comparative analysis and research on employee rights and worker freedom in all 50 states, as well as engaging in federal and state lobbying and educational efforts. Johnson also is the federal affairs manager of Americans for Tax Reform.
“We are not an anti-union organization, we are pro-worker freedom. It is just simply unfortunate that in today’s political environment, being pro-worker often runs directly counter to the union agenda,” Johnson said.
The nonpartisan AWF, a nonprofit organization, depends on fund raisers, business and individual contributions to sustain its political efforts. AWF is currently campaigning against the White House-Congressional effort to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a name worthy of Orwell which is, in reality, a bill to deprive workers of the secret ballot in unionizing elections and would impose government arbitrators on disputes.
The AWF advocacy group generally concentrates on a range of variables affecting workers and businesses such as right-to-work regulations, minimum wage laws, collective bargaining rights, union density and public sector union membership, independent contractor reform, workers compensation, prevailing wage amounts, paycheck protection, immigration policy and pension contribution systems. AWF’s goal is to promote free and open markets while combating anti-worker legislation.
Johnson said the Employee Free Choice Act, or Card Check, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), if voted into law, will remove the current federally-supervised secret ballot for workers voting on unionization issues. The AWF sees the legislation resulting in the potential for intimidation, bribery and violence against workers opposed to unions. AWF estimates that passage of the bill could cause the loss of 600,000 jobs in 2010 alone. Card Check, coupled with President Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade regulations meant to combat global warming, could cause the loss of four million jobs by 2030, adding an estimated $646 billion in tax costs to manufacturers and consumers, while discouraging new businesses from opening, and adding momentum to the present economic downturn.
“Unions gave $600 million to the left this past political cycle. Their payback is EFCA,” Johnson said.
The AWF is opposed to compromises to the Card Check legislation suggested by Starbucks, Costco and Whole Foods, that expand fines against employers, gives union organizers unprecedented access to workers, and sets fixed time periods for union votes to take place. Instead, the AWF supports private voting for workers and an employee environment free of coercive regulation. Johnson said the president’s policies favor organized labor at a time when job creation should be placed before special interest pandering that destroys jobs. AWF is working with state legislatures to pass anti-EFCA resolutions instructing federal representatives to close debate and oppose passage of the legislation. The resolution has passed in seven states and has been introduced in nine others.
He pointed out that policies favoring union workers discount 92 percent of employees in a labor force where an estimated 8 percent of the workers are union members. Union memberships have decreased due to failing businesses, global market competition and the depressed economy from the 35 percent levels reached in the 1950s.
If passed into law, the card check legislation would become the first major overhaul of American labor law since 1947.
Johnson said that the Obama administration is protecting the fact that unionized businesses are failing faster than non-unionized ones because of the increased costs associated with unionization.
The mandatory government arbitration of labor disputes contained in the legislation weakens management’s bargaining power with big labor by forcing businesses into binding, two-year contracts on labor terms set by government arbitrators if negotiations between management and organized labor fail to conclude within a 120-day timeframe.
“If you take card check out of EFCA and leave the forced binding arbitration, the part that will force businesses to close and is perhaps the most detrimental to our economy, then where will the votes fall?” Johnson said. “The message needs to shift off of card check and onto the part that will kill our economy.”