Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Monday, July 1, 2002


ALBANY—Below is the text of the memorandum delivered today (July 1, 2002) to all members of the New York State Senate:

TO: Honorable Members of the New York State Senate
FROM: Daniel B. Walsh, president and CEO
RE: RE: S.7822 / A.11784-A - The bill to use state contracting to assist union organizing efforts

You are returning to Albany this week to vote on a bill that would use the leverage of state contracts to give labor unions a powerful new tool to use in pressuring employers and workers across the state.

Though some accounts describe this bill as applying mostly to non-profit health-care providers, in fact it would apply to thousands of private-sector employers of every size and description-from software vendors to auto dealerships, from colleges to printers, from small businesses to Fortune 50 companies. Sell any state entity anything, from health-care services to office supplies, and you're covered.

And while the measure is officially described as a "neutrality" bill, in fact its enactment is being aggressively sought by the unions precisely because it would radically tilt the playing field to their advantage.

Of course, The Business Council has no objection to unions' established right to organize. And on the surface this bill simply bans the use of funds that come from state sources to "encourage or discourage an employee from participating in a union organizing drive." What could be wrong with that?

Three things-big things, in our view-are wrong with it:

First, any employer who receives any "monies appropriated by the state for any purpose" would have to maintain detailed, audited financial records "sufficient to show" that state funds were not used in any way to discourage a union organizing drive. This is not only a cumbersome (and expensive) accounting burden. It is ultimately impossible to achieve, because it requires an employer to prove a negative. A manager at a print shop writes a memo about unionization; how do you prove no part of that memo was paid for by funds from the brochure the shop printed for the local community college? A manager is stopped in the hall by an employee who has a question about the unionization drive; is the manager then supposed to run to the accounting office and alter the accounting for his salary for those few minutes?

An employer hires a consultant to train managers on how to improve employee morale, but then a union activist claims the real purpose of that is to undercut a unionization drive; how can the employer be sure the financial records will prove otherwise? Employees at a group meeting ask managers some questions about unionization, and the managers try to answer; how does the employer account for the salaries of the employees during the time they were in the meeting? And so on; the complications and ramifications are endless.

Second, these practical difficulties are compounded by the fact that the proposed law will surely be used to harass and intimidate even employers who have made every good-faith effort to comply. Employers will know that if the unions have the political wherewithal to get this bill enacted, they also have the clout to get a lengthy and intrusive investigation launched against employers who do not instantly open the doors to unionization.

Faced with these difficulties, we fear that many employers who might normally compete for state contracting business will decide not to. Less competition for state contracts will mean higher costs for the taxpayers. A further consequence may be more state contracting business going to out-of-state companies, where the state's enforcement powers are unclear. You and we have heard many complaints about state printing business going to Canada, for example; this bill will surely exacerbate that trend.

Other employers, from contractors to nursing homes to colleges, cannot avoid doing business with the state and will have to try to comply with this bill. Many of them will feel compelled to turn the keys over to a union at the first sign of an organizing drive, rather than endure the burdens and harassment they will face if they do not. That, we believe, is the real, if hidden, purpose of this bill.

Finally, as The Buffalo News pointed out today, there is the fact that this bill will "send a message to potential employers who cannot help but take note of Albany's dizzying tilt toward labor."

Is that really the message you want to send?

And where does it stop?

cc: Governor George E. Pataki