Our own Mark Hemingway was interviewing Rep. Peter King (R, N.Y.) earlier today on another topic, and he passed along to me King’s remarks on the Employee Free Choice Act, which he has announced he will oppose.
King was careful to note that he is still on board with organized labor on most issues, such as the Davis-Bacon Act (which requires above-market wages for certain government-funded projects). He does not even necessarily oppose EFCA in principle, and he may support it at a future date. But he is opposing the Employee Free Choice Act this year, despite having sponsored it in the past, because the economy is too poor to sustain a massive increase in unionization.
“Employee Free Choice, I co-sponsored it for a number of reasons a few years ago. One was to send the message that not all Republicans have this visceral, anti-labor reaction. Also, the economy was doing well… Having said that, the economy being the way it is, it’s too much of a risk to take…Now they’re trying to say that I’m doing it because I know it really has a chance of passing…But no, I just feel the economy can’t handle it…
It is worth noting that King’s opposition gives cover to a lot of Republicans who have supported EFCA in the past – perhaps even to Arlen Specter.
King does seem to be a bit confused about the bill. He notes, accurately, that an employer can prevent a secret ballot election under the current law, but he treats this as though it somehow creates an imbalance in favor of employers, when in fact it does not. King said:
The employer has the right to decide whether there is a secret ballot or not. I was trying to find a way to level the playing field. Certainly, we can make some improvements on that…Right now, more of the protections are with the employer.
Under current law, an employer can only prevent an election by capitulating to the union and embracing it after a successful card-check drive. It’s not as though the employer can stop a vote in order to prevent workers from unionizing.