Right to Work Members Win Against Long Odds

(Source: January 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

Committee Defeats Police/Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Legislation

With the long-anticipated conclusion of the 111th Congress a few weeks ago, National Right to Work Committee members and supporters achieved a major legislative victory that had seemed a near impossibility at the Congress’s inception in 2009.

Just before Christmas, Congress adjourned without having rubber-stamped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) so-called “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act” (S.3991).

This was government union bosses’ “top legislative priority” in the 111th Congress, as International Firefighters (IAFF/AFL-CIO) union czar Harold Schaitberger admitted mournfully after the adjournment.

Seasoned Capitol Hill observers had confidently predicted the Reid legislation would pass into law before the end of 2010, and with good reason.

At the outset of the 2009-2010 Congress, the votes were there to pass the bill in both chambers of Congress. Furthermore, President Obama was publicly vowing to sign it as soon as it reached his desk.

The only possible hope of blocking the government union power grab was a Senate filibuster — and mustering the 41 votes needed to sustain one seemed to be a long shot at best.

Nevertheless, from the beginning, Committee members and supporters were ready to fight to the hilt, because the stakes were so high.

‘Already Strong Lobby’ Sought Even More Power

S.3991, referred to unofficially, but accurately, as the Police/Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill, would have empowered Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) bureaucrats to survey all 50 states and identify which had failed to meet the legislation’s “core standards.”

And the key “core standard” was mandatory union monopoly bargaining. Localities in all 50 states would have been denied the option to refuse to grant a single public-safety union the power to speak for all front-line employees, including those who didn’t want to join.

Monopoly bargaining, euphemistically labeled as “exclusive representation,” would have been foisted on police, firefighters, and other public-safety employees nationwide. And in most states that already authorize public-safety monopoly bargaining, this legislation would have widened its scope.

As Wall Street Journal reporter Kris Maher noted late last spring, under legislation like S.3991, if any state had refused to institute monopoly bargaining and comply with other mandates, FLRA bureaucrats would have implemented them themselves.

Sen. Reid personally introduced two different versions of the Police/Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill. In April 2010, Mr. Reid sponsored S.3194, a bill he could bring to the floor at any time, without any preliminary committee action.

And during the “lame-duck” Senate session late last year, he introduced S.3991, a modest variation on his earlier measure crafted to garner more support through its exemption of sheriffs’ departments from the federal monopoly-bargaining mandate.

Yet another Senate version of the Police Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill was sponsored as S.1611 by Big Labor appeaser Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). In the House, union-label Congressman Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) introduced companion legislation as H.R.413.

In all its guises, the police/fire monopoly-bargaining legislation was a budget-busting power grab. In an astute editorial last June, the Washington Post summed up why this scheme was so dangerous:

“What this bill would do is impose a permanent, one-size-fits-all federal solution in an area — public-sector labor relations — that has traditionally been left to the states, and where state flexibility is probably more necessary than ever.

“. . . The bill further empowers an already strong lobby . . . .”

Harry Reid Nearly Succeeded Because of GOP Collaborators

Of course, Mr. Reid wasn’t troubled by the intense damage S.3194 and S.3991 would do to taxpayers or by how they would ravage state sovereignty.

The bottom line for him was that this legislation would empower and enrich union officials who are one the Democratic Party’s “most important constituencies,” as the editors of the New York-based biweekly National Review put it.

However, Democratic politicians, despite controlling the White House and substantial majorities in both chambers of Congress, were never expected last year to make the Police/Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill, in any of its versions, the law of the land all on their own.

Since GOP Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) took office last February, there were never more than 59 senators in Mr. Reid’s majority caucus. But it takes 60 to bring up a piece of legislation for a final vote if opponents seek to block it by launching an extended debate.

The reason Mr. Reid nearly succeeded last summer in making his pet scheme the law of the land was because six out of the 41 GOP senators were sponsoring S.1611, monopoly-bargaining legislation virtually identical to the Reid bill.

Last July 1, the House monopoly-bargaining legislation sailed through the lower chamber as an amendment to H.R.4899, a massive, unrelated defense spending bill. Union strategists eagerly anticipated the Senate passing the whole measure later that month.

All-Out Right to Work Mobilization Stalled Union Lobbying Blitz

But then, for several weeks in July, freedom-loving Americans mobilized by the National Right to Work Committee contacted their senators again and again, urging them to oppose H.R.4899 on all votes unless and until the public-safety union monopoly-bargaining amendment was removed.

Firefighters union boss Schaitberger personally expressed alarm in an e-mail to union operatives that the “National Right to Work Committee” was “working the phones.”

Several organizations representing the interests of local governments and public-safety departments, such as the National Sheriffs’ Association, joined with the Committee in lobbying against the forced-unionism sneak play.

The message clearly got through to a number of senators who normally vote with Big Labor, but were getting antsier and antsier about their next election.

On the evening of July 22, the Senate voted down the House-passed version of H.R.4899, and then approved a war-spending bill without the monopoly-bargaining provision. Finally, on July 27, a chastened House acquiesced to the Senate’s action, and sent a stripped-down war supplemental to President Obama’s desk.

Of course, Harry Reid didn’t give up at that point, or even after voters ousted two Senate proponents of federally mandated public-safety union monopoly bargaining, Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), replacing them with 100% Right to Work supporters, in the November 2 general elections.

Right to Work Supporters Continued Turning up the Pressure on ‘Lame Ducks’

On December 8, the “lame-duck” Senate voted on Mr. Reid’s cloture motion to cut off debate by Right to Work proponents so that S.3991, his latest version of the police/fire union power grab, could get the Senate green light, then race through the House and go to President Obama’s desk.

But, thanks once again to intense grass-roots lobbying efforts by Right to Work supporters, Mr. Reid came up five votes short of the 60 he needed to achieve cloture, with three Senate Democrats and half-a-dozen Republicans who had previously supported the legislation voting “No.”

“Right to Work members and supporters nationwide never let down their guard until the 111th Congress adjourned for good on December 22,” observed Committee President Mark Mix. “That is how they pulled off a remarkable victory for independent-minded public servants and taxpayers.”