Coronavirus spending has loans for midsized businesses, but with pro-union strings attached
Midsized businesses taking the money could have little say in whether employees can be unionized
March 26, 2020 - 10:56pm
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From a $15 minimum wage to union membership on board seats, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill comes with significant union-friendly strings attached for midsize businesses that employers should take into consideration before taking stimulus loans, according to labor analysts.
Economic observers say companies should be concerned about these pro-union loan provisions because they could hurt businesses, just when companies need to quickly hire as a means of preventing an economic recession or depression.
One of the additional, major pro-union measures included in the Senate-passed coronavirus stimulus is what’s called the “card check” method of labor organizing, when a majority of employees in a bargaining unit publicly sign authorization forms, or "cards.” Critics say card check takes away the right to a secret ballot, which protects workers from undue union pressure to sign.
“This section of the CARES Act has nothing to do with the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and is simply a handout to unions,” Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the free-market think tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy, wrote in a recent Mackinac policy blog post. “Instead of having a regular election where employees can vote in private, card check elections allow unions to organize via a petition process where if a majority of employees sign cards, the union is automatically recognized and represents the employees. Card check can lead to intimidation, deception and coercion of employees.”
Vernuccio pointed to his research showing specific examples of union deception, intimidation and card check coercion. He noted that the coronavirus stimulus package stipulations would be placed on midsize businesses – e.g. those with 500 to 10,000 employees. Such firms taking a loan under the coronavirus stimulus would need to remain “neutral” when a union tries to organize them. In practice this means that employers could not communicate with their employees about unionization.
“Many companies may choose not to take the loans because of the mandates,” Vernuccio said. “It is unclear if this will lead to card check but that is definitely a concern. Most ‘neutrality agreements’ include card check. It will be up to those writing the regulation and the courts to decide if ‘remain neutral’ means taking away the secret ballot from employees as well. Unions will try to make that case.”
In addition to the “card check” issue, Vernuccio noted in an interview with Just the News that there are a host of other pro-union measures in the Senate-passed bill, which President Trump has said he would “sign immediately.”
“There are a lot of other provisions in the Democrats' ‘Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” which is over 1,400 pages, including $15 minimum wage, giving unions a seat on the boards of airlines that take stimulus money, increased paid sick leave mandates, union pension bailouts, forced neutrality in union-organizing elections for airlines that take money, making it more difficult to amend collective bargaining agreements for some companies that agree to the stimulus, and a host of other issues,” Vernuccio continued.
Politically, labor unions are overwhelmingly supportive of progressive causes and politicians, both financially and through voter operations, leaving the question of whether the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are concerned about the bill's impact on strengthening the revenue coffers of unions that would then be used against them later on. Vernuccio urged lawmakers to set aside any political considerations.
“We are concerned with protecting employee choice and privacy as well as the ability of employers to communicate with their employees,” Vernuccio said. “At this time everyone should put politics aside to focus on the health and economic security of Americans.”
The Labor Department told Just the News that it was unable to respond to questions about the union provisions of the coronavirus stimulus package.
“Your questions are appreciated, but at this time I’m unable to give you an answer,” said Sophia Laila Cabana, special assistant at the Office of Public Liaison U.S. Department of Labor. “Your input and concerns will be kept in mind as we continue to take questions from the public so as to formulate an FAQs page on our website and provide clear guidance to workers and employers in a number of unique situations. I encourage you to check the DOL website for new information pertaining to COVID-19 and our response to it.”
The powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said in a news release that it did support the Senate-passed coronavirus stimulus package as “a good first step,” however, “we still need to do more.”
“Congress should immediately begin work on a new bill that ensures every working American has paid sick days, everyone can get coronavirus testing and treatment free of charge, no matter their immigration status, and working people continue to come before corporations,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.
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