After 25 years spent as a businessman, I know that American workers have an extraordinary ability to respond to the challenges of an evolving economy and competition from abroad. Our country has what it takes to end 9-percent-plus unemployment and return to the path of economic growth. But at a moment when the American workforce must respond like never before, its ability to do so is under assault by President Barack Obama and the union bosses that he counts as his allies.
The National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) attack on Boeing for opening up a new manufacturing facility for its 787 Dreamliner here in South Carolina is a flagrant case in point. Even Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric and the chair of the president's own Jobs and Competitiveness Council, has sharply criticized the Board's charge that Boeing broke the law by opening a plant in a right-to-work state. The case has no legal basis and is certain to be dismissed by the courts. But damage has already been done: the rule of law has been undermined, business confidence shaken, and job creation further slowed.
It is easy to grasp what is going on here. President Obama is in political debt to labor leaders who funnel union funds to the coffers of the Democratic Party and who are vital to his re-election bid. In return, he has been advancing an agenda that gives more power to Big Labor in a way that hurts businesses and also the very workers whom unions ostensibly exist to represent.
One part of that agenda involved supporting a "Card Check" law that would eliminate secret-ballot union elections. To further the agenda, he stacked the once-impartial NLRB with union favorites, who, as in the Boeing case, are now calling the shots. For instance, they are pushing "snap" election rules that would give employers as little as ten days in which to prepare for an election or inform workers of the downsides of unionization.
Behind all these efforts lies a political machine funded by coerced contributions. Workers at unionized companies are often forced to pay hundreds of dollars annually in union dues. Employees have little choice but to watch that money go to union political causes they may not support-including the cause of more unionization. It is a vicious cycle in which President Obama happily participates, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by organized labor on his election campaign. The result is that, even though unions too often slow investment and growth and job creation, our president has chosen their interests over the needs of the economy.
As president, I will put the interests of American workers and businesses first. Believe in America is my comprehensive plan to reignite our economy. It has 59 specific proposals, including 10 actions that I will take on Inauguration Day. One of those will be to reverse Obama's executive orders that have tilted the playing field in favor of organized labor. Unlike President Obama's appointees to the NLRB, mine will be experienced and even-handed arbiters, not former union officials with personal interests in promoting the agenda of their former employers.
There will be no Boeing cases in a Romney administration. Indeed, I would use the bully pulpit of the presidency to encourage more states to adopt right-to-work laws. I will fight to ensure that workers can choose to join or not join a union. To exercise that right freely, workers must have access to all the relevant facts for making an informed decision. This means hearing from both the union and management about potential benefits and costs. This also means being able to act on that information in the privacy of the ballot booth. I would press for legislation requiring the use of the secret ballot in all union elections and for the repeal of any NLRB rule that distorts the law to accelerate the union election process.
I am also vitally concerned about protecting the free speech of workers. I would seek to enact a law prohibiting the use of mandatory union dues for political purposes. The practice is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic principles; there is no legitimate reason for employees to face automatic paycheck deductions for political expenditures that they may not support. Under our laws, political donations should always be freely and voluntarily given.
All these measures will help put us back on the path toward economic growth and job creation. America's workers have long been the most productive in the world. If we unshackle them from the self-interested restrictions of federal bureaucrats and union bosses alike, I have no doubt that they will produce wonders far beyond those, like Boeing's Dreamliner, that have already made America the great country that it is.
By Mitt Romney