What's at Stake
Over the years, unions have made extraordinarily important contributions to American society. Many of the protections and benefits enjoyed by workers in the 21st century are the result of sacrifices and struggles and hard-won battles fought by unions in an earlier era. But today, the effects of unionization have changed in ways that need to be recognized. Too often, unions drive up costs and introduce rigidities that harm competitiveness and frustrate innovation.
The statistics tell an unkind story. Studies conducted by non-partisan scholars have shown that labor unions reduce investment and slow job growth. Right-to-Work states have added millions of jobs over the past decade while states with pro-union policies have shed nearly a million jobs. In a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans said that labor unions "mostly hurt" the American economy.
Yet as unionization becomes less and less popular--union membership in the private sector has declined from 36 percent in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today--Big Labor is fighting harder and harder to maintain its power. The question is: whose interests should come first, those of workers and businesses or those of organized labor?
In the midst of an economic crisis, with 24 million people needing work, policies that strengthen the hand of labor unions at the expense of both businesses and workers are probably the last thing the country has needed. But President Obama, in political debt to labor leaders who have funneled union funds to the coffers of the Democratic Party and who are vital to his reelection bid, is willing and eager to press forward with Big Labor's agenda.
He pursued "Card Check" legislation that would have stripped workers of the right to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize. He issued an order requiring workers on stimulus projects to become union members. He appointed Big Labor cronies to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where they have wreaked havoc on the law. Perhaps the best known example is the agency's decision to bring charges against Boeing--the nation's largest exporter--for opening a billion-dollar manufacturing facility and hiring over 1,000 new workers in a Right-to-Work state.
Far from contributing to economic recovery, the Obama administration's highly politicized labor policies have instead dampened business investment and made the employment climate worse. Overall, it is a familiar story from the annals of American politics: favors were given and favors were repaid, and the American people lost out in the transaction.
Mitt Romney, with his extensive experience in both business and government, has a keen understanding of labor relations. He recognizes, as he himself has written, that "[a]t their best, labor unions have always fought for the rights of workers, and generations of Americans have been better off for it." But he also recognizes that the interests of union management can diverge from those of the very workers they purport to serve.
As president, Mitt Romney's first step in improving labor policy will be to ensure that our labor laws create a stable and level playing field on which businesses can operate. As they hire, businesses should not have to worry that a politicized federal agency will rewrite the rules of the employment game without warning and without regard for the law.
* * Appoint to the NLRB experienced individuals with respect for the rule of law
* * Amend NLRA to explicitly protect the right of business owners to allocate their capital as they see fit
* * Reverse executive orders issued by President Obama that tilt the playing field toward organized labor
Mitt Romney believes in the right of workers to join a union or to not join a union. To exercise that right freely, workers must have access to all the relevant facts they need to make an informed decision. This means hearing from both the union about the potential benefits and from management about potential costs. This also means being able to act on that decision in the privacy of the ballot booth.
* * Amend NLRA to guarantee the secret ballot in every union certification election
* * Amend NLRA to guarantee that all pre-election campaigns last at least one month
* * Support states in pursuing Right-to-Work laws
As matters currently stand, unions can take money directly from the paychecks of American workers and spend it on politicking--each election cycle, unions spend hundreds of millions of dollars. In non-Right-to-Work states, employees have little choice but to watch their money go toward such expenditures, even if they do not support the union and its political agenda. The result is the creation of an enormously powerful interest group whose influence is disproportionate to its actual support and whose priorities are fundamentally misaligned with those of businesses and workers--and thus with the needs of the economy.
* * Prohibit the use for political purposes of funds automatically deducted from worker paychecks