Business Group Offers Alternative to Employee Free Choice Act

Starbuck’s, Whole Foods and Costco have floated a proposal to level the playing field, as they term it, in union organizing. The group rejects two prongs of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)–the card-check and binding arbitration provisions–and keeps in place the current system of secret balloting.

What they do retain from the EFCA is the provision for increased penalties on employers who obstruct the unionization process or who otherwise threaten, intimidate or outright terminate activist employees.

What they offer in place of card check and arbitration are an expedited election process and equal access for the union to employee gatherings held pre-election for informational purposes, meetings which unions claim are currently used by employers to spread disinformation and scare employees into voting no.

The proposal was instantly rejected by Congressional sponsors of the EFCA as “written by CEOs, for CEOs.” An AFL-CIO spokesperson said it was “simply not an alternative.”

The three companies found little comfort in the business world either, where a line of no compromise has been drawn in the sand.

It appears that friends and foes of the EFCA alike have adopted an all-or-nothing appoach. Time will tell if one side or the other eventually blinks–or if both do.

(For the record, Costco is the only one of the three companies to be unionized, and it is just partially unionized through a handful of locations that were organized by the Teamsters when they were Price Clubs. Costco does, however, give all its employers the same wages and benefits that it negotiates with the Teamsters every three years. Whole Foods actually once had one unionized location in Madison, Wisconsin, out of 300 or so total outlets. The company’s co-founder, John Mackey, has routinely blasted the “intellectually bankrupt left” on his blog and derided unions as “like having herpes.” In fact, Mackey discovered an online community on Yahoo devoted to Whole Foods and contributed nearly 1400 comments over seven years using the pseudonym rahodeb, a variation on the name of his wife Deborah. This activity of his came into play when Whole Foods made an offer to purchase Wild Oats, and the SEC discovered that Mackey had used the online communities for Whole Foods and Wild Oats to game the deal. Whole Foods, to its credit, does provide all employees with free health insurance and competitive wages, factors which have helped stave off unionization at all locations save that one. Starbucks has been in and out of hearings and courtrooms in the past for alleged union-busting activities, and late last year was found guilty by a National Labor Relations Board judge and ordered to reinstate three employees with back pay. There is a Starbucks Union Web site, but its account has been suspended, which hosting services will do for unpaid bills, overuse of bandwidth, violations of terms of service, and other reasons. Even if I had the time, I doubt I’d be motivated to find out why the union’s site has been suspended–unless I can discover some kind of scandal hidden therein.)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Top Ten States in the Foreclosure Sweepstakes

You can call this my corollary to the GovRegs blog posting on “Top 15 Companies With Cash on Hand.”

‘Cept this one ain’t so pretty–it’s a list of the top 10 states in terms of foreclosures. I’ll list them in reverse order to save the winners for last. The number in parentheses represents the ratio of foreclosures per house in the state; for instance, 1-500 means one in every 500 homes is facing foreclosure. Here goes:

Ohio (1-451)
Oregon (1-448)
Georgia (1-389)
Illinois (1-369)
Michigan (1-360)
Idaho (1-358)
Florida (1-188)
California (1-165)
Arizona (1-147)
Nevada (1-70)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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The ‘Human Monster’ Rick Berman Is At It Again

The man whose very son called him “despicable” and a “human molestor,” labor antagonist Rick Berman, is spreading the word again–the word against the EFCA, Employee Free Choice Act.

At least he’s come up with interesting anti-EFCA studies, though one can never know the extent of the bias (if any) built into these things.

First, he cites Princeton economist David Lee, who studied the effect of unionization on companies’ stock valuations.

According to Berman, Lee found “substantial losses in market value following a union election victory–about a 10 percent decline, equivalent to about $40,500 per unionized worker.”

Should EFCA pass, the Human Molestor concludes, “Lee’s data suggest that the market value of firms will decline by as much as 11 percent.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which he also cites, chimes in that EFCA will cost the nation 600,000 jobs in the first year.

Here’s more labor molestation:

In a 2002 study, economists Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway calculated the burden that labor unions had on American economic productivity. They found that between 1947 and 2000, ‘the economic cost of unions’ in cumulating lost income, investment, and output was $73 trillion. That’s more than the gross world product last year.

Dunno, but that sounds awfully inflated or made up to me, and I’m no fan of the EFCA.

Berman gets in some licks of his own, of course, but he doesn’t reveal his source when he claims that the top ten most unionized states achieved just two-thirds the job growth of the top ten least unionized states from 1997-2007.

This is all good stuff in the arsenal of weapons to be used against the EFCA, but I doubt any Democrats will be listening in Congress.

Are you listening, filibuster-killer Arlen Specter?


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Study Ranks States on the Freedom Scale

The Mercatus Center of George Mason University has released the “first-ever” freedom rankings for all 50 states, rating each state in terms of fiscal policy, regulatory policy, economic freedom and personal freedom.

We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same,” explain the authors, William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens.

Where does your state stand?

The freest states are New Hampshire, Colorado and South Dakota. NH scored a plus .432.

The least free states are New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Maryland. NY scored a minus .784.

Living in California, I had a pretty good idea my state would bilge out, as would New York.

If you want more details or wish to track your state, here’s the report in PDF format.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Which U.S. Companies Have the Most Cash on Hand?

The top one probably isn’t too hard to figure out (think gas pump gouging), but here’s a list of the top 15 firms in the U.S. in terms of hoarded cash:

  1. Exxon Mobil – (XOM) – Total Cash: $32.007 Billion
  2. Cisco Systems – (CSCO) – Total Cash: $29.531 Billion
  3. Apple – (AAPL) – Total Cash: $25.647 Billion
  4. Berkshire Hathaway – (BRK.A) – Total Cash: $25.539 Billion
  5. Pfizer Inc – (PFE) – Total Cash: $23.731 Billion
  6. Toyota Motor – (TM) – Total Cash: $23.151 Billion
  7. Microsoft – (MSFT) – Total Cash: $20.298 Billion
  8. Google – (GOOG) – Total Cash: $15.846 Billion
  9. Royal Dutch Shell – (RDS.A) – Total Cash: $15.188 Billion
  10. Wyeth – (WYE) – Total Cash: $14.54 Billion
  11. IBM – (IBM) – Total Cash: $12.907 Billion
  12. Johnson & Johnson – (JNJ) – Total Cash: $12.809 Billion
  13. Intel – (INTC) – Total Cash: $11.843 Billion
  14. Hewlett Packard – (HPQ) – Total Cash: $11.255 Billion
  15. Oracle – (ORCL) – Total Cash: $10.646 Billion

NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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WalMart Set to Cash in on EHR Boom

You don’t get to be the world’s largest retailer without having some chops.

Evidently reading the Obamaic tea leaves during the 2008 campaign, WalMart set in motion a plan to market Electronic Health Record (EHR) computer systems to physicians, and in so doing has come up with a system that shaves 50 percent off the price of its competitors.

Using its Sam’s Club operation, the Arkansas giant will pair Dell computers with software from eClinicalWorks and will throw into the mix installation, maintenance and training.

Cost will be $25,000 for the first physician in an office and $10,000 for each additional. Yearly upkeep fees will run $4,000 to $6,500.

Recall for a moment how the recent stimulus package (also called “porkulus” by many commentators) included $19 billion in subsidies for EHRs, and you’ll see how savvy WalMart was in preparing for an upcoming opportunity.

With McDonald’s, WalMart has also been about the only bright spot on the economic front since the Great Crash of September 2008 when Timothy Geithner and Hank Paulsen let Lehman Brothers go under (while paying the bonuses for AIG, Merrill Lynch and scads of other institutions they did decide to save), so you have to give the much-maligned (by Obama’s very own supporters) company some credit.

“If Wal-Mart is successful, this could be a game-changer,” observed Dr. David J. Brailer, former national coordinator for health information technology in the Bush administration.

Like I said at the top, you don’t get to be Top Dawg without having some chops–and using them to eat up your competition.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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The Curious Case of Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball, or MLB, has enjoyed a federal antitrust exemption since 1922 due to a Supreme Court’s ruling that the sport did not engage in interstate commerce. Quite curious because even back then, teams had to cross state lines to play each other, but the ruling has nonetheless stayed on the books, so to speak, ever since.

The ruling was reaffirmed in 1953 and again in 1972 in the Curt Flood case that did away with the infamous reserve (slavery) clause that MLB teams had used to keep its players in tow, underpaid and under wraps. In this latter case, however, at least the high court noted that the ruling of no interstate commerce was an “anomaly” but left it to Congress to deal with if it so chose.

Of course, Congress has wielded its antitrust bludgeon on quite a few occasions, most recently when dragging in owners, players and baseball executives to testify about steroids use.

Now, and here’s another curious aspect, since baseball does not engage in interstate commerce, it technically doesn’t fall under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) that regulates working hours, minimum wages, overtime day and child labor. (Of course, most states have similar or stronger laws on the books, so this may be a moot point.)

I guess that’s how teams get away with working their batboys till the wee hours, right?


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Coming Soon to a Stimulus Project Near You: Endless Waste

If you thought that four years late and $350 million over budget for the largely unneeded U.S. Capitol Visitor Center was bad, wait till you see what the projects flowing from the recent $787 billion stimulus package will cost.

The 1931 David-Bacon Act (which obviously did nothing to shorten or alleviate the Great Depression) provides that contractors for government construction projects pay a “prevailing wage” to all employees. The prevailing wage–natch–is set by the government itself, and with the Obama people running things, only Karl Marx himself knows how high that can go.

Davis-Bacon was enshrined and expanded to cover virtually everything in the recent stimulus package, so the sewer next to you might end up costing 300 percent of what it would normally cost on the open market.

Wait, it gets better. Not only is Davis-Bacon being married to stimulus projects, but Obama has issued an executive order requiring project labor agreements (PLAs) for major construction projects, currently those costing $25 million or more, but surely and shortly to be lowered by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who has authority over such matters.

PLAs require contractors to accede to all union demands regarding work rules, working conditions, pay, hiring (which must be done in union hiring halls), and union dues (which must be paid even by non-union members). A PLA was and is in place for the infamous Big Dig in Boston, which the Boston Globe projects will cost at least $22 billion, after being budgeted at $6 billion, and not be paid off until at least 2038.

Now, the irony here is that it’s Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Care medical program that the Obamaites are hoping to copy for the rest of us, and that plan makes the cost overruns of the Big Big pale in comparison.

Why does this seem like deja Great Depression all over again?


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Card Check: Canada Rejects It, We Covet It

It’s funny–and illustrative–that Democrats in the U.S. have always ached for the liberalism of our northern neighbor, which is one reason why I’ve been warning on these pages that health care reform, Demo-style, is nothing but a Trojan Horse for socialized medicine a la Canada.

However, on one crucial issue, our U.S. liberals are not watching northern affairs closely enough. Canada once had card-check union authorization on the books in all ten of its provinces. After disastrous results, the law has been rescinded in six provinces, including Saskatchewan, birthplace of and home to Canada’s communist party, and the most liberal province of all.

Jason Clemens explains this more fully in his article on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Meanwhile, the EFCA, as estimated by the Heritage Foundation, could end up unionizing more than 4 million small businesses since the exemption for small businesses has not been increased since 1959 and stands at gross receipts of $50,000 a year. There are very few small businesses today that could survive on that meager amount of revenue.

The AFL-CIO’s Stewart Acuff denies unions will be targeting small businesses, but what’s to stop any group of employees from unionizing once they see how easy it is?


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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EFCA Could End Up Unionizing 4,180,000 Small Businesses

The 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), commonly referred to as the Wagner Act, exempted small businesses from union organization, but the definition of small business has not been updated since 1959. The exemption ends when a small, non-retail business grosses $50,000 in a single year; for retail operations, the figure is $500,000 a year.

However, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) now before Congress contains no exemption, nor any updating of the NLRA exemption. Thus…

Using census data, the Heritage Foundation (admittedly a pro-business, pro-capitalist outfit) estimates that 4,180,000 U.S. small businesses employing 38,934,000 Americans could end up being unionized.

The Foundation poses this scenario: Say you own an automobile repair shop employing five people. A union guy comes by at the close of work one day and corrals three of them into a local pub, where they all sign cards authorizing a union. Now, using a typical tactic, the union rep might call these cards “requests for information” or some such, but anyway, the shop is thereby unionized.

You, the owner, now have 10 days to begin negotiating with union guy, who now represents all your employees. He makes deliberately ridiculous demands for wages, benefits and working conditions, demands to which you could never accede and stay in business, so you refuse. In 90 days, rep guy calls in a federal mediator, but his demands stay the same. After 30 days, the mediator calls in an arbitrator, who then dictates a two-year contract that splits the difference between what you proposed and what union blackmailer wanted.

Result: Your costs go up by 50 percent, and you go out of business. You go back home and start working out of your garage, making as much or more than you did owning a business. Meanwhile, five people are out of work, but union guy has moved down the street to organize other small businesses.

Read the full scenario and explanation.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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