CNBC Interview - Transcript
CNBC INTERVIEW WITH REP. PHIL HARE (D-IL) AND REP. JOHN KLINE (R-MN)
SUBJECT: EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT INTERVIEWERS: BILL GRIFFETH, DENNIS KNEALE AND MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA
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MR. GRIFFETH: Joining us with their respective views of this -- whether it's a good idea for business and the economy and/or unions -- Congressman Phil Hare is a Democrat from Illinois. He loves this idea.
REP. HARE: (Laughs.)
MR. GRIFFETH: And Congressman John Kline, the Republican from Minnesota, does not.
Gentlemen, good to see you both. Thank you for your time today.
REP. HARE: Thanks for having us.
REP. KLINE: Glad to be here.
MR. GRIFFETH: Congressman Hare, why is this a good idea?
REP. HARE: Well, we already have a law that says that workers that can -- it's a matter of fairness, from my perspective. If the -- 50 percent plus one present a petition to the employer, the union does not have to be recognized. The bill has the very same provisions in it in order for people to join a union. So if you cannot -- basically not put the union as your bargaining rep with the petition, you should be able to do it.
But also in this bill, just the big myth is -- you know, they say it takes away the secret ballot. This bill calls for 30 percent of the people, if they so want a secret-ballot union election, they get it. It's -- it's - it's appropriated into the bill.
MR. GRIFFETH: Right.
REP. HARE: So I don't subscribe to the notion that there is -- that the secret ballot's been waived yet.
MR. GRIFFETH: Congressman Kline, you don't like this. Why?
REP. KLINE: Well, this does effectively eliminate the secret ballot from union organizing. I understand that the proponent's position -- it says that the secret ballot request is -- employers are replaced by employees. But the truth of the matter is that once the union organizer comes into a workplace and gets 50 percent plus one, as Phil said, the National Labor Relations Board will certify that union. The employees can't come back, and say, "Oh, we really would like to have a secret ballot."
The expectation today in the workplace is that while cards are being checked, at the end of that process, the National Labor Relations Board will come in and administer a secret ballot.
MR. GRIFFETH: Right.
REP. KLINE: That's the protection that workers deserve. This legislation effectively eliminates that.
MR. KNEALE: Congressman Hare --
REP. HARE: Yes.
MR. KNEALE: -- I talked to some U.S. Chamber of Commerce people about this, and they are of course the opposing this card-check legislation. And the thing that really seems to bother me about it -- and them, I think -- is this would be an escalation of federal intervention into private contract talks that we have never seen on a scale in this country. There are already laws to protect union people when companies mistreat them or don't bargain in good faith. But this would say, if you negotiate 120 days on a contract --
REP. HARE: Mm-hmm.
MR. KNEALE: -- and we don't have a contract, automatically a federal arbitrator -- appointed by the Obama administration, which is pro-union -- comes in, and they slap a settlement on you whether you like it or not. Yet why do we want government getting involved? If a company and a union can't agree on a contract, let them work it out themselves.
REP. HARE: Well, you know, I profoundly disagree with you because -- you talk about existing laws. George W. Bush, who was probably the most anti-labor president in the history of this nation, found 30,000 people and ordered them reinstated who were fired simply because they tried to organize a union within the company.
MR. KNEALE: And there's a law that let them get protection. Good for them.
REP. HARE: Well -- well, what law? Because they were summarily fired, and that's only the ones who George Bush identified.
Look, you have one out of every 25 people that tried to get into a union or tried to organize a union lose their job. All we're asking for in this bill is a simple matter of fairness.
Look, if the workers don't want the union, they don't have to sign the petition.
MS. CARUSO-CABRERA: But, Representative Hare --
REP. HARE: Nobody --
MR. KNEALE: There's pressure.
MS. CARUSO: What I don't understand is that you were a member of a union.
REP. HARE: I still am.
MS. CARUSO-CABRERA: Unions fought for so long for a secret ballot purposely so that corporations couldn't pressure their employees or couldn't show retribution against them --
REP. HARE: Mm-hmm.
MS. CARUSO-CABRERA: -- due to a secret ballot. And now you want to get rid of it?
REP. HARE: Well --
MS. CARUSO-CABRERA: I don't understand why that doesn't -- the minute you sign a card, everybody knows.
REP. HARE: Everybody knows when you sign the petition to decertify the union who the people are that voted to decertify the union. You don't have a secret ballot to go to the plant manager and say, "We no longer want union XYZ to represent us." Your name is on a petition. Those whose names aren't on the petition are identified.
Look, if the playing field was level -- and you had mentioned -- one of you mentioned earlier that the union organizers are in the plant. Look, the union organizers cannot even be on company property. They have to contact these people. If they're lucky, they get the list of the employees with two weeks out. The employer can bring people into their offices for two hours, three hours. They can talk about the evils of joining a union. And the -- and the union organizers are basically allowed two weeks. And if you either telephone, knock on a door, or hopefully get a piece of literature in their hands.
MR. GRIFFETH: Now, look --
REP. HARE: Is that fair?
MR. GRIFFETH: One last thing. I'm sorry, but we have to wrap up real fast. Congressman Kline --
REP. KLINE: Yeah.
MR. GRIFFETH: Unions already win the vast majority of secret- ballot elections when they get in there and get a company's employees to vote. Why is this needed?
REP. KLINE: This is not needed. I mean, that's the point. What we'd like to have is a continuation of the expectation that workers are protected by being able to go into the voting booth and voting in secret.
There is no question that there is intimidation that goes on, sometimes by employers, definitely by the union organizers. No employee should be forced to tell his employer, his fellow employees, his family, the union organizer and everybody else what his position is or her position is on forming a union.
They need the protection of the secret ballot. We ought to insist it. In fact, I and others have made this legislation to protect the secret ballot. That's the direction we should be going in.
MR. GRIFFETH: Thank you both very much for being here.
REP. KLINE: Thank you.
REP. HARE: Thank you for having us.