The Employee Free Choice Act, which has the support of President Barack Obama, would allow workers to form unions simply by getting a majority of workers to sign cards, instead of holding a secret vote. [...] labor organizations say it's employers who use their authority to pressure workers to vote against unionizing: "This bill levels the playing field for workers," said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
Trenton 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 MBI-Gluckshaw Branching out from Statehouse recently mailed a brochure touting the many services it offers Lobbyists tout a broad range of alternative services to clientele aside from lobbying,
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