June 27, 2002
Council decries new bill to use state contracting to support union organizing
Lawmakers this week moved closer to agreement on a bill to use the power of state contracting to make it easier for unions to organize. The Council is forcefully opposing the proposal.
The Assembly passed the bill late Wednesday after the Governor signaled his support by sending the Assembly a formal "message of necessity" authorizing an immediate vote. The Senate reportedly may return to Albany as soon as next week to consider the measure.
The bill is being pushed by hospital union leader Dennis Rivera. Proponents describe it as a "neutrality" bill designed to keep taxpayer funds from being used to counter union organizing efforts. But it arms unions with a set of powerful tools to discourage employers from making any effort to counter union organizing activities.
The Business Council has outlined a range of specific objections to the bill:
would impose a quagmire of new record-keeping requirements
on any business or not-for-profit entity that does any business
with the state. That includes both health-care providers
and other not-for-profit entities that receive state grants,
and any for-profit enterprise that sells any goods or services
to the state.
bill would create a new authority for state government to
demand access to those records - and, in the process, create
a powerful tool for unions to harass employers targeted
in their organizing efforts.
and not-for-profits that receive any state funds would be
subjected to a new, unfair burden of affirmatively proving
that no state funds were spent to communicate in any way
about unions or the merits of organizing efforts.
bill effectively limits employers' rights to free speech
under the First Amendment.
- The bill undermines the National Labor Relations Act and much of the nation's well-established labor law, which has been crafted over decades by courts, regulators, and legislators at many levels with the overriding goal of ensuring balance between workers' right to organize and employers' right to offer their opinions on the merits of unions.
"This bill would give organizing unions a loaded gun of high caliber to use to harass employers into submission," said Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh. "Many employers, and small non-profit health-care providers in particular, will decide that it is easier to simply give in to the organizing effort than it is to deal with state-backed harassment.
"That is the inevitable effect of this bill - and, from the perspective of the organized labor interests pushing it, the clear intent," he added.
The bill was described in some quarters as a "compromise" bill after a similar proposal was floated earlier this week. That bill, dubbed the "Organized Labor Intimidation Act" by The Council, was denounced by The Council, hospitals, and other health-care provider at a Capitol press conference Tuesday. It included provisions that would have required vendors and grantees to effectively renounce their rights to say anything about unions and organizing, and to accept a majority of workers' signatures on authorizing cards as approval of the unions, replacing the well-established principle of secret-ballot voting. Those provisions have since been dropped.