Small Business Could Swing Card Check Fight

August 6th, 2010 at 11:36 am | 2 Comments |

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Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway has voiced unambiguous support for the “Employee Free Choice Act,” also known as “card check,” the pro-Union bill that would make it easier for employees to organize via secret ballots. Small businesses are offered no protection against the expanded power of unions under the new law so it’s clear that their candidate is not going to be Conway. However, the usual allies from the right are not much better.

Small businesses remain the red-headed step-child of political constituencies: ignored by Democrats and used as cover by Republicans pursuing pro-corporate policies.

Scott Jennings, a Kentucky GOP operative who learned from Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove, is now the face of a GOP front-group called The Coalition to Protect Kentucky Jobs. It is funded by an undisclosed list of anti-union GOP establishment insiders. CPKJ’s tactic is to oppose unions at the behest of folks like Wal-Mart and Home Depot while claiming to working on behalf of small businesses. Small business meanwhile is being choked to death by the likes of Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Despite this, small businesses will likely gravitate to the CPKJ and the GOP due to their aspiration to be as successful as bigger businesses.

It is true is that “card check” could provide a potential boon to small business. It would force the big-box stores into expensive labor agreements, thereby allowing small businesses to better compete.

However, there is no protection for small businesses in “card check” as written. If passed, small businesses may not last long enough to compete against Wal-Mart, as they will be swallowed up by expensive, prolonged arbitration and labor agreements that would run them out of business for good.

Marion County Line spoke with a spokesperson from the National Labor Relations Board, who explained why “card check” would apply to small businesses:

For retail enterprises, the business must do a gross annual volume of business of at least $500,000. However, to satisfy the requirement for “affecting commerce”, there must also be evidence of movement across state lines. Usually a business that has a gross annual volume of business of $500,000 will meet the $50,000 standard noted above [an annual outflow or inflow, direct or indirect of at least $50,000 across state lines brings an employer within our jurisdiction], but if it doesn’t some evidence of business across state lines (even if less than $50,000) will suffice.

This covers any small business that gets a shipment of goods from another state. As the Tonner Brother Foods case from 1972 shows:

Tonnor Brother Foods, Inc., … a grocery store with a total of 20 employees (eight of whom were part-time high school students) was covered under the NLRA. This corner grocery met the jurisdictional threshold in 1972, and the result would be the same today if EFCA were to be enacted.

Earlier this week, Jennings’s CPKJ held a small business “round table” with lobbyists from manufacturing and building contractor groups, which yielded a press release from the event that included nothing but poll-tested buzzwords like “job-killing” and “union bosses.”

However, the labor organizations’ response to small businesses remains the worse alternative. Americans Rights at Work, a pro-labor organization, tells small businesses: You’re going to like being unionized. Yikes.

In order for “card check” to work for small businesses — by getting small retailers on the side of Big Labor against big-box retailers like Wal-Mart — the NRLB’s jurisdictional threshold must be raised. The current threshold of $500,000 in gross annual revenue was set in 1959. Adjusted for inflation, $500K in 1959 would be $3.64 million in 2009.

Therefore, in order to protect small businesses, the NRLB’s jurisdictional threshold needs to be raised to at least $3.5 million of annual gross sales. If Democrats can’t get their labor constituencies to buy into a plan like this to bring small businesses into their coalition, then Scott Jennings is right and small business owners, and those who enjoy the benefits of small businesses in their communities, need to vote for Republican candidates.

Jack Conway’s campaign had no immediate comment.

Originally published at Marion County Line.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • easton

    I don’t buy this, employees at small companies generally know the owners, if they would organize, which is doubtful they won’t do so in a way to put the company out of business.

  • jorae

    I agree easton. I have worked for small companies and if your unhappy, you can just talk to the owner…It makes no sense to have a union in such personal situations.

    There is a place for unions, but this borders on propaganda to give unions another black eye…the sky is falling for the hysterical types that grab every world just to enjoy the hate.

    The only folks I know who stayed with a company 30 years, worked for a union…what does that tell you…Unions are good for capitalism and the employee.