Former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney joined local business leaders Thursday to discuss the negative impact that the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) would have on our nation’s small business owners and overall economy.
Supported largely by labor unions and liberal interest groups, EFCA would allow unionization of businesses by “card check”: obtaining signatures of a majority of employees, effectively ending secret ballot elections in the workplace. This, argued Romney, will set a dangerous precedent. “Removing democracy from the workplace strikes at the very heart of America’s economic foundation,” he told audience members.
The former governor and possible 2012 contender also said that were this bill to pass, it would discourage people from taking the risk of starting a small business out of fear that their workers would be forced into unionization. As a result, Romney said, the legislation would have the long term impact of stifling job creation. “It’s not great for the people who own businesses today, but it’s even worse for the employees of tomorrow,” he said.
Romney also made clear that he believed much of the support for EFCA among Democrat leaders is payback to union supporters. With more members, suggested Romney, unions would be able to raise more money to be used for political purposes and in turn use those funds to support mostly Democratic candidates, saying that this potential effect “one of the great incentives for people who are pursuing this legislation to do so. It’s payback for prior support but it’s also recognition that the union organizers would have massive war chests to support the people who support them.”
If labor organizers were able to unionize all of Wal-Mart’s employees, then that would allow unions to collect $100 million in dues for political purposes alone,” said Romney.
Other speakers agreed that it’s far from clear whether or not Senate Democrats have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster of EFCA. Hugh Keogh, President & CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said that many of his organization’s members have been lobbying the Old Dominion’s newly-elected Democratic Senator Mark Warner, to vote against the bill. Warner, a former (2001-2005) governor of Virginia and successful businessman, is one of 18 Senate Democrats who has not chosen to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill.
Publicly, the Senator’s position is that he’s undecided, although Romney, having served with Warner as a governor and being familiar with his record as a businessman, told participants that he “couldn’t conceive” of Warner voting for the bill, adding that if he were to do so, it would be a testament to just “how much pressure” Democratic leaders are placing on rank-and file senators. Democratic Senator Jim Webb, Virginia’s other senator, voted for cloture (to end a filibuster) when the bill came to the floor in 2007. This time however, he has not chosen to co-sponsor EFCA and refuses to state publicly how he might vote on it should it come up.
Katie Packer, Executive Director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, which organized the event, said the group invited Romney to speak because “he knows a thing or two about strengthening the economy”. “He also understands,” said Packer, that “government doesn’t create jobs, business owners do.” “And he knows that when the government imposes a punitive system against employers, that hurts job creation,” she went on to say.
Opponents of EFAC won’t go down without a fight. “[Democrats] thought they could slide [EFCA] under the radar and throw a bone to big labor,” said Packer. “They’re seeing pretty clearly that they were wrong”.