To See Stan Turkel's position supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, click here.
An inflammatory editorial like Stanley Turkel’s April 8, 2009 “Employee Free Choice Act: As American as Apple Pie?” screams out for a reply. His editorial is replete with many factual inaccuracies, all of which demand further examination.
In my opinion, and after 48 years in this business, I have never seen legislation with such potential to harm our industry as EFCA threatens to do.
Hoteliers throughout the country value their employees, who are integral to their business. Despite the unprecedented economic conditions, hoteliers are doing all they can to retain their employees. We are all in this together.
In his editorial, Mr. Turkel justifies the enactment of the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) by noting that American workers have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and implying that unionizing them will somehow provide them with full employment and job security. While I am not arguing against unions, I would like to call Mr. Turkel’s and the reader’s attention to the current condition of America’s auto, steel, and airline industries—all heavily unionized—and use that instead as a starting point before asserting that unionization is the sole salvation of American workers. Clearly, it isn’t.
Our industry is encumbered with high labor costs. It is a fact that unionized hotels are less profitable than non-union hotels. Labor work rules in union hotels are inflexible, making that hotel less competitive than its non-union neighbor.
Mr. Turkel is wrong when he states: “Under the Employee Free Choice Act, workers are still free to organize using “secret ballot” elections.” EFCA (H.R. 1409/S. 560) clearly states in Section 2(a) of the bill:
“If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative…”
The language is clear. “The Board shall not direct an election” means just that – there is no choice by anyone except the union to call an election if union organizers are able to collect signed cards through a “card check” process from the majority of workers. Despite union assertions to the contrary, employees do not have a choice.
In fact, John Wilhelm, hospitality division president of UNITE-HERE, also notes that card check eliminates private ballot elections. In a September 18, 2008 memo, he wrote: “[EFCA] substitutes card check for secret ballot elections.”
While Mr. Turkel may believe the union rhetoric, this law would eliminate secret ballot elections, and organized labor knows it. I encourage you to read the bill, Mr. Turkel. It’s online at http://thomas.loc.gov, or I would be happy to send you a copy.
Mr. Turkel’s assertion that the right to vote in private is something “forced” is disturbing in and of itself. I hope that our federal lawmakers do not share his contempt for such a sacred American right—after all, it is the same process that elected all of them to office.
Workers have stated repeatedly that do not want their right to vote taken away. While Mr. Turkel’s Pew Research Center poll found that 68% of Americans believe that labor unions are necessary, 20 percent more Americans (88%) in a January 26, 2009 survey by McLaughlin & Associates said they wanted to keep their vote private in workplace elections. Moreover, while Mr. Turkel asserts that voters elected President Obama to pass EFCA, these same voters told the McLaughlin pollster that 73% of them were opposed to EFCA.
The right to a private vote must not be stripped from American workers. Replacing that hallowed benchmark of a democracy with a card check system is more than just un-American, it subjects workers to coercion and intimidation.
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on February 8, 2007, former UNITE-HERE organizer Jen Jason noted: “that in jurisdictions in which ‘card check’ was actually legislated, organizers tended to be even more willing to harass, lie, and use fear tactics to intimidate workers into signing cards.”
It is well-documented that organizing cards today are often signed under coercive or intimidating circumstances by union organizing teams and do not represent informed intent by any stretch of the imagination. Unions will frequently collect over 60 percent of the cards in public only to find that they cannot maintain 51 percent of the vote, when workers make their own decision in private ballots.
Mr. Turkel also mentions in passing that EFCA “allows employers or employees to request mediation if they’re unable to negotiate a first contract” as if this was a minor and benign provision of the bill. EFCA would mandate that a federal government mediator impose contract terms for workplace conditions if the employer did not agree to union terms within 120 days of the union being recognized.
That’s right: EFCA offers no request and no options. The government-mandated contract would be binding without any opportunity for workers to approve or reject it. Employers who felt the mandated contract would destroy their business are equally out of luck, for EFCA removes their chance to appeal the decision.
The prospects of this government mediation are chilling. The government would dictate not only the wages and benefits for every worker, but also every other aspect of a hotel’s workplace. The government would even determine how profitable a hotel could be as well as how competitive it could be with its other establishments.
Ask yourself—does the government understand how you run your business? And can a hotelier take that chance?
Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the binding arbitration provisions of EFCA. The same January McLaughlin & Associates survey found that 72 percent of voters agreed that the binding arbitration provision in EFCA is “unwise” and “risky.”
There is a reason why the American hotel industry—and American business—is spending millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours to fight this bill. We trust our employees to make their own decision about workplace representation in private. The unions believe otherwise, or else they would not try to twist their lobbying campaign using any possible argument in order to dupe Congress into passing this travesty of a bill. For the lodging industry, this bill is just wrong—wrong in so many ways. Congress must reject EFCA resoundingly, for not only economic reasons, but rational and moral ones as well.
EFCA will not provide America’s working families with “good jobs and health care for all” anymore than the 1917 Russian Revolution was able to deliver utopia to the Soviet Union.
Joseph A. McInerney CHA
American Hotel & Lodging Association