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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:

"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.