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VOL. 124 | NO. 89 | Thursday, May 7, 2009

Right to Work Foundation Prez. Discusses Legislation Impact

By Rebekah Hearn

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Position: President
Organization: National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
Basics: Mix will be the featured speaker at today’s 2009 Labor & Employment Conference.
“This is a cartel of big business on one hand, big unions on the other, and the one piece that’s left out of the equation from a public policy standpoint (or) a legal standpoint is often the employee. “
– Mark A. Mix

Mark A. Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, will be the featured speaker at today’s 2009 Labor & Employment Conference at The Hilton Memphis on Ridge Lake Boulevard. The conference is sponsored by Kisewetter Wise Kaplan Prather PLC.

The foundation provides free legal assistance to workers and employs legal strategies to protect workers from abuse associated with compulsory unionization.

Mix has been the president of the foundation since 2003. He also serves as the president of the National Right to Work Committee, a public policy organization with more than 2 million members.

Q: What do you plan to address at the conference today?

A: We’re going to talk about the so-called Employee Free Choice Act that is currently pending in Congress. I’m going to talk about what it means to employees and then what it means to employers if the legislation, as it’s currently written, passes Congress.

Q: What could the passage of the EFCA mean for employees?

A: When we look at the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, what does it mean? Let’s say you have 50 people in your newsroom, and one day a union organizer comes around and talks to your colleagues and says, “We’d like to organize the newsroom, will you help me figure out who might be for us and who might be against us?” Then let’s say they have secret meetings with 24 more workers – say, two of them are already in cahoots – so 26 people get together and they sign the card, and they turn them in to the employer, and then – if (the EFCA) passes – all of a sudden, your supervisor comes down to the newsroom and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, whether you agree with this or not, I want you all to know that you’re now represented by the (hypothetical) Mark Mix Compulsory Union, because 26 of your coworkers have signed these cards and they have been certified by the NLRB.” So the 24 of you that never heard that this was going on – and that may sound ridiculous, because you work with these people – but it’s possible, under this law, that 24 people could have no knowledge about this, and they go to work and all of a sudden are told, “You are represented by this union. Anything you want to talk to your employer about, you have to talk to the union first.” That is a realistic possibility under this bill.

Under current law, employees can voluntarily join (a union) together and they can sign a petition (to) grant them an election to have a union as their bargaining agent in a particular workplace. That process is pretty well established. But instead of going out and selling a product to the American workers, instead of going out and willingly and convincingly making a case to workers that says, “You need us,” (unions are) now saying, “Let’s go to Congress, and let’s jam everybody into these unions by whatever means.” Now, there are a lot of workers that will willingly sign the card; they can do that under the law today. But Congress (could) give union officials the ability to say, “Once we get this one signature over the majority, we now get power over everybody in the unit.” And the government imposing that kind of a provision, in my mind, is plain wrong.

This is a cartel of big business on one hand, big unions on the other, and the one piece that’s left out of the equation from a public policy standpoint (or) a legal standpoint is often the employee.

Q: You wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal online in 2008 titled “Labor Unions Prolonged the Depression.” Can you explain your beliefs on this?

A: In 1935, (Franklin D.) Roosevelt (passed) the Wagner Act, and that is – in combination with two other bills that were passed after that – known today as the National Labor Relations Act. What (Roosevelt) wanted to do was take the labor management relations issue away from the private sector employees and bring it to Washington.

The Wagner Act basically established that unions could be the exclusive bargaining representative of workers, if they used the procedures. So (labor relations) was taken from the states and went to Washington. But there were serious questions about the constitutionality of these federal power grabs. The Supreme Court had just ruled that the National Recovery Act was unconstitutional on states’ rights issues, and (the Wagner Act) looked pretty much the same. Roosevelt got wind that the Supreme Court was going to balk on this, and he actually threatened to pack the court; he was going to raise it to 15 members.

Finally, Supreme Court Chief Justice (Charles Hughes) balked, and said, “OK, we’ll rule that this is constitutional.” That was in 1937. And the moment that was ruled constitutional, the economy went right back into the (doldrums). So this recovery was wiped out by this huge federal usurpation. And here we are again; the union officials have called the (EFCA) the “new Wagner Act.”

Q: When people talk about Tennessee being a right-to-work state, some employees believe that means they can be fired at any time for any reason. Is that true?

A: No, no. That’s called at-will employment, and union officials have a vested interest in continuing that fiction, because they want you to think that right to work means the employer can do anything he wants, and that’s a flat-out lie. Employment at-will has nothing to do with right to work. What right to work says (is) you have the right to join or the right to refuse to join a labor union.

Tennessee is a right-to-work state, meaning you can’t be forced to pay dues or fees in Tennessee, but you can be forced to give up your own right to represent yourself, meaning you can’t talk to your supervisor unless the union negotiates (a particular contract saying otherwise).

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