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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Dems Looking to Modify the Employee Free Choice Act?

The business-feared, loved-by-unions Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) was introduced in both the House and the Senate on Tuesday. Passage by the House seems a done deal, but in the Senate success hinges on getting 60 votes to choke off a filibuster.

With 58 (and potentially 59 with Al Franken) Democratic Senators, invoking cloture wouldn’t seem like such a high hurdle, but a handful of Senate Dems is having reservations about EFCA while Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who voted for EFCA the last time around, is more hesitant in the midst of a re-election tussle.

Also, consider this: The Senate bill listed 40 co-sponsors, six fewer than in 2007. The House bill had 223 co-sponsors, compared with 230 co-signers on an earlier version of the legislation.

Already, there’s talk that the proposed law might be modified, and some have even speculated on a “grand bargain” in which the card-check provision is stripped out but the other portions are left intact.

Card check is what opponents like to call the EFCA since the law would allow workers to unionize once 50 percent plus one of them sign an authorizing card. A secret ballot would no longer be required but would be an option–at the workers’ choosing, not the employers’.

Even with card check out, the EFCA would still create many headaches for businesses. Its other provisions increase penalties for interfering with union organizing efforts and also mandate binding arbitration if union and company can’t agree on a contract. In fact, the final result of the arbitration could be a dictated contract forced down the company’s throat!

Representative Joe Sestak (D.-PA) has already introduced an alternative piece of labor legislation–the National Labor Relations Modernization Act–that basically removes card check but leaves the other provisions in.

Senator Specter, who voted with the Democrats to end the filibuster when the EPCA was first introduced in 2007, is no longer a sure “yes” vote. He’s facing an extremely tough primary opponent, Representative Pat Toomey, who vociferously opposes EFCA and almost beat him last time around. Plus, Specter himself authored a paper last summer for a Harvard symposium, in which he recounted horror stories of union lies and intimidation employed to trick and force workers into signing authorization cards.

At any rate, as Personnel Concepts has reported in its white paper on labor law under Obama, the battle over EFCA should be grand drama.


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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Health Care Reform: How Gurneys Become Beds

To be frank, I share neither the euphoria nor the enthusiasm that seem to surround the rush to “reform” health care. Of course, the optimistic aura surrounding Obama’s push for reform is largely media induced, leaving us little hope that we’ll see or read anything to detract from what’s going on.

My position is that there is no reform of health care going on; there’s just a push to get government more involved with an eye toward eventually creating “Medicare for all,” for lack of an easier description. Once that happens, then the real, intended reform can take place–bureaucrats will dictate to doctors and hospitals what they can and can’t do based on cost effectiveness. In other words, if it’s expensive, don’t expect to get it once Obamacare takes full effect–unless you want to take a medical vacation to India and pay for it yourself.

Consider this example from Great Britain, which I actually found in a real, live American newspaper (but appearing below and inferior to a more “positive,” pro-reform article):

In Britain, for example, politicians were getting pressure from constituents because hospital emergency rooms were so crowded that patients were left on gurneys in hallways awaiting care, sometimes for days. Politicians told the hospitals this had to stop and that they had to admit patients faster.

The response of some hospital administrators: Take the wheels off the gurneys because they then fit the definition of a ‘hospital bed.’ The patients were no better off, but the statistics looked better to the politicians.

The article was written by someone named Grace-Marie Turner, whom the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quickly described as “president and founder of the Galen Institute, which is funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries” (my emphasis).

At least the AJC let the article see the light of print before quickly disavowing and discrediting it.

So you see what I mean about how hard it is to find and read the truth.


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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What’s Up With the UAW and Ford?

Ford, which is in the best shape of all three American automakers and has not gotten (nor will it seek) government bailout funds, has wrung a deal out of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) to cut costs in health care and in overtime and unemployment pay.

Or is the shoe actually on the other foot?

The UAW has typically struck a deal with one automaker that it then sets up as the gold standard for the other two. By cutting a deal with Ford that leaves pay scales and health care for existing workers intact, the union may be drawing a line in the sand for GM and Chrysler, both of whom are on a federal umbilical court and under orders to cut costs or die.

It’s unlikely that the union, outside of government or courtroom pressure, will go any further in making concessions, even to two firms that may expire of their own decrepitude and obesity. It’s also highly unlikely that the Obama administration will try to force the UAW into further concessions, so it looks like this is a union gambit that could play out for them.

Of course, if GM or Chrysler or both disappear, then all the gambits in the world won’t help.

It should be an interesting side show as the Great American Recession continues.


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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China: Laboratory for EFCA-Style Unionization

Can’t blame ’em. Business owners in China’s manufacturing belt, their businesses up in smoke in the worldwide recession, are fleeing the country and leaving their workers high and dry–and yuan-less–rather than cope with China’s restrictive labor laws.

Of course, you can also call them rats for absconding with their companies’ loot while leaving their workforce with no money to survive on. China’s recent Labor Contract Law supposedly protects workers from unannounced factory closings and loss of pay, but many owners have been doing an end run and disappearing.

To date, some 20 million migrant workers, who relocate from the provinces to work in factory-rich Guangdong Province and send money home to their families, are now unemployed.

Since all workers are unionized in China (but have no right to strike), the national union is fighting back, and so is the government.

“We will use all labor-related laws to help migrant workers keep their jobs in this difficult time,” Zhang Mingqi, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions said at the start of the National People’s Congress (NPC) session.

Some owners were also hopeful that the government would not enforce the Labor Contract Law and other provisions, but that’s not going to happen, evidently.

Xin Chunying, the deputy director of the legislative affairs commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said the Labor Contract Law will not be amended because of the current global economic downturn.

“The crisis has nothing to do with the law. We won’t amend the law because of the downturn,” she told a press conference of the ongoing NPC session Monday.

Anyway, all this looks eerily like what will happen in the United States if the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA–see yesterday’s posting) passes. In a word, chaos. In two words, disappearing companies.


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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Personnel Concepts’ White Paper Predicts the Future

Well, not quite, but Personnel Concepts–the labor law poster pioneers–has added a white papers section to its home page, and one of the featured papers looks at labor law changes coming under Barack Obama.

Prominent among the anticipated pieces of legislation is something called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has christened “Armageddon”–the end of free enterprise in America.

EFCA, also derisively called “card check” because it enables employees to unionize simply by signing unionization cards and shunning any secret ballots, looked to be a shoe-in at the start of the Obama administration, but recently speculation has surfaced that some previous supporters are having second thoughts.

The bill is reportedly going to be introduced in the House of Representatives today. Passage in the House, which is wildly stacked in favor of the Democrats, is almost a sure thing, but the Senate–with its 60-vote cloture rule–is more iffy, and that’s where the reported defections have taken place.

We’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I’m sure Personnel Concepts will keep us posted.


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 Road to ‘Armageddon’ Starts Today

Sources tell Personnel Concepts that the much-feared-by-business Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) will be introduced in the House of Representatives today. Well, nothing new here.

EFCA made it through the House’s 435 members once before and passed with flying colors, but its fate in the Senate may be another matter altogether.

Just today, the Wall Street Journal reported that "Labor Bill Faces Threat in Senate" because of some suddenly wavering Democratic support. Whether this wavering is just posturing or temporary remains to be seen, but EFCA does require 60 votes in the Senate to pass. Without 60 votes, a bill can be filibustered into extinction, which is exactly what the Republicans would gladly do to this piece of legislation.

EFCA, also called "card check" because it does away with the requirement for secret-ballot unionization votes and makes certification by majority signatures possible, has come under a withering attack from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which called it "Armageddon") and other business groups.

Even Obama supporter and billionaire investor Warren Buffett came out against EFCA in a CNBC interview yesterday. Time will tell what happens to EFCA, but I’m sure the folks at Personnel Concepts will keep us up to date with its news alerts.


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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