Lobbyists sounding alarm over lowered union barriers by ProQuest

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Lobbyists sounding alarm over lowered union barriers
But labor leaders argue fears of a business exodus are overblown                                                                  passed, prime targets for union organiza-             ers would have to negotiate collective bar-
                                                                                                                                  tion would include banks, hospitals and big-          gaining agreements with their employers.”
            BY SCOTT GOLDSTEIN                          would move to southern and western states                                 box retail stores like Wal-Mart, he said.                   Overall, Harvey does not believe the leg-
A FEDERAL BILL making it easier for work-               where right-to-work laws don’t force work-                                     “Somebody can come in and talk to                islation would drive a lot of companies out of
ers to unionize will further weaken the                 ers to join unions, even if they’re in a union                            employees and make them think unioniza-               the Garden State. “New Jersey wages are
state’s recession-wracked economy by driv-              shop. “Unionization effects are blunted to a                              tion is something good, or coerce them to             already higher. New Jersey taxes are higher.
ing more New Jersey companies to the South              great degree down there.”                                                 support a union,” Ehlbeck said. “We believe           Benefits are higher and unionization rates are
or overseas, business lobbyists warn. But                     The legislation can “devastate” small                               there should be a conversation on both sides.”        higher,” Harvey said. “And still there are
union leaders say such fears are overblown.             businesses, such as printers and hair salons                                   But labor organizations say it’s employ-         employers in New Jersey.” ◆
     “This will absolutely result in businesses         that have as few as two employees, said                                   ers who use their authority to pressure                                       E-mail to sgoldstein@njbiz.com
going overseas, some moving to the South                Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of National                                workers to vote against unionizing:
and some shutting down,” said Philip                    Federation of Independent Businesses/New                                  “This bill levels the playing field
Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Busi-            Jersey. “It can force companies to shut                                   for workers,” said Charles
ness & Industry Association. “There are busi-           doors, and ultimately it will drive up the                                Wowkanech, president of the
nesses that just can’t compete with 20 percent          prices for consumers.”                                                    New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
to 25 percent wage increases and restrictive                  The measure is believed to have enough                                   Philip Harvey, profes-
work rules that unionization brings.”                   votes in the U.S. House of Representatives,                               sor of law and economics
     The Employee Free Choice Act, which                but will face a tougher test in the U.S. Senate.                          at Rutgers-Camden Law
has the support of President Barack Obama,                    Right now, unions first collect signatures                          School, said, “The
would allow workers to form unions simply               from 30 percent of the employees, who then                                legislation will
by getting a majority of workers to sign                vote for or against the union in a secret elec-                           clearly make it
cards, instead of holding a secret vote.                tion held by the National Labor Relations                                 easier for
     “Without it, as the economy recovers,              Board. In advance of the election, unions and                             unions
workers won’t be able to share in collective            management can campaign for and against                                   to gain
growth,” said Alison Omens, spokes-                     unionization, Kirschner said. “To suggest that                            recogni-
woman for the the American Federation of                it just be signing cards, and that’s the end of it,                       tion, and




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Illustration: Summer Olstad
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo: Jupiter Images
Labor and Congress of Industrial Organi-                is undemocratic,” Kirschner said.                                         the state
zations in Washington. “In recession after                    About 11 percent of private-sector                                  would
recession, if workers don’t have the ability            workers in New Jersey are unionized —                                     experi-
to bargain, the middle class cannot be                  compared to 7.5 percent nationwide —                                      ence more
rebuilt or sustained.”                                  mostly in construction, manufacturing and                                 unioniza-
     Kirschner argued more companies                    utilities, Kirschner said. If the legislation is                          tion. More employ-
                                                                                                               Steven J. Dundas




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