It looks like the Democrats can only pass a reconciliation bill if they are willing to get behind a trimmed-down package. The $3.5 trillion version doesn’t command the support of 50 Senators. A $2 trillion package might.
But to get from $3.5 trillion to around $2 trillion, the Democrats must agree on what to cut. That seems like a tall order because the current package contains big gifts for everyone under the Democratic umbrella. Which constituencies will be deprived of Christmas?
Here’s one that should be. Unions.
Dominic Pino at NRO points out that the current reconciliation bill provides tax breaks for union members. It would create a $250 above-the-line tax deduction for union dues starting next year.
Pino also directs attention to an analysis by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation which itemizes additional goodies the bill confers on unions. One is that it bans all staff meetings to discuss unionizing.
Unions oppose such meetings because they give employers an opportunity to tell employees about the disadvantages of unionizing. The reconciliation bill takes that opportunity away, but unions would still be able to reach employees in all the ways they do now, including getting the names and addresses of employees and going to their homes to sell unionization.
I’m not sure, by the way, what employer meetings have to do with federal spending and the budget. Reconciliation bills are supposed to be limited to measures related directly to these matters.
The draft bill also imposes civil monetary penalties of up to $50,000 for each employer unfair labor practice (ULP). And it personally subjects business officers to these fines. These fines would apply to all ULPs, not just serious ones like firing a union supporter.
Sherk notes that since federal labor law is highly complex, this provision would expose many employers, especially small businesses, to potentially crippling fines for inadvertent violations. This, in turn, would give union organizers leverage to pressure employers into forgoing secret ballot elections for their employees.
Another pro-union element in the bill identified by Sherk is an increase in funding to the Labor Department to curb alleged “misclassification” of workers as independent contractors. As Pino explains, independent contractors can’t unionize the same way employees can. Thus, as independent contractors become a bigger part of the workforce, the pool of potential members shrinks.
Democrats therefore would like the Biden Labor Department to minimize the degree to which workers are classified as independent contractors. The reconciliation bill would fund an enhanced effort to accomplish this.
Another gift for unions is a provision under which a tax credit for electric cars applies only if the cars are produced with union labor. Pino notes that this provision “undermines any claim to its being about the environment, since nonunion electric cars would have the same carbon emissions as union ones.”
The bill also would prohibit companies from locking out employees — the opposite of a strike. I can understand why unions and Democrats want this. I don’t understand the direct relationship of this ban to federal spending and the budget, and hence why it can properly be accomplished through reconciliation.
Finally, the bill would prohibit employers and employees from using arbitration to resolve class grievances, requiring such disputes to go through the court system instead. Sherk notes that arbitration is faster and less expensive than litigation. Importantly for purposes of the Democrats, it also generates far fewer attorney fees.
If this provision is enacted (and again it doesn’t seem like a proper measure for reconciliation), it will prevent employees from using an effective and efficient mechanism for redressing their rights, while creating opportunities for trial lawyers.
Striking these pro-union, anti-employer provisions from the reconciliation package won’t go very far towards bringing the price tag down to where Sen. Sinema reportedly wants it. However, it would be a good place to start.
If Congress wants to significantly alter labor law and labor relations, it should do so through regular order with the votes of 60 or more Senators. It shouldn’t do so by smuggling pro-union agenda items into a budget reconciliation measure.
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