Archive for September 2010

Unions, Jobs and the Reverse Job Fair

September 3, 2010
tray abney 090210Tray Abney of the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce says entrepreneurs are heroes, rather than “resources to be mined.” Hear his remarks by scrolling to the end of this post.

Audio added subsequent to post: see caption at left.

A dull gray cinder block wall rising from hot asphalt became the backdrop for a “reverse job fair” on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, staged to oppose a federal initiative the event’s organizers call a job killer. The choice of location was deliberate — directly across Virginia Street from the Reno offices of Senators Reid and Ensign.

“Normally during summer time, job fairs would be taking place,” organizer McKay Daniels told a sparse gathering of onlookers. “In fact, it’s a reverse job fair that’s taking place across our country on a daily basis.”

To underscore his point, Daniels indicated a giant pink slip. The poster board creation all but eclipsed the diminutive Randi Thompson, who,  as the envoy of the National Federation of Independent Business, carried it to the podium.

Daniels, Thompson, and several others appeared as part of the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs. Their focus was the Employee Free Choice Act, a controversial Obama administration priority that has languished in Washington.  Alliance members assert the law would add expense and red tape for business, cause jobs to dry up, and force employees to unionize against their will. There is speculation the bill may be revived this fall after a long latent period.

The group was denounced by another Thompson — Danny Thompson, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO.

“These are a bunch of employers who are doing everything they can to muddy the waters, to prevent working people from forming a union,” he said in a telephone interview, accusing the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs of misleading the public.

danny thompson

Danny Thompson represents labor in Nevada.

Thompson said the Employee Free Choice Act would stop employers from harassing employees while they are unionizing, and ensure they don’t drag out the negotiating process once the workers have unionized.

The primary provisions of EFCA allow automatic certification of a union, if a majority of employees sign cards indicating their support, a process that’s currently achieved by a secret ballot. Detractors say workers will be pressured during organizing campaigns to sign up on the spot, opening the door for intimidation.

Clara Andriola of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada took the podium, and called the legislation “the Employee Forced Choice Act,” saying it takes away the right to a private vote, and would dictate to business the provisions in their employee handbooks.

Andriola said the National Labor Relations Board is currently working to put in place pieces of EFCA through administrative action, recognizing that the legislation is unpopular and may not pass the Senate, despite bullish predictions by labor leaders earlier this year.

Of particular concern, said Ray Bacon of the Nevada Manufacturer’s Association, is the requirement for binding arbitration if employers and newly formed unions can’t arrive at a contract within 120 days, a pace many businesses consider rushed. Because Nevada has a shortage of qualified arbitrators, Bacon said, the process would be assigned by the NLRB to arbitrators from outside the state.

“That means somebody from California, or somebody from the east coast, or somebody from Washington, D.C. is gonna be setting the terms of a labor contract,” he said. “I’m not sure that fits real well in the state of Nevada, and it probably won’t be well-received.”

The arbitrator shortage is disputed by Danny Thompson.

“There are plenty of arbitrators in Nevada, and it’s never been a problem for any arbitrations we’ve been involved in,” Thompson told the Reasonable Reporter, estimating there have been thousands.

The Alliance cites 85 percent as the portion of the Nevada workforce that does not wish to be part of a union.

Hear Tray Abey from the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce by clicking on the flash player below.  If you do not have a flash player you may download the file directly by clicking here. The file is 2 minutes and 30 seconds long.