Legislature needs to promote jobs

Editor’s note: John Carlson, who normally provides the column appearing here, is on vacation. His column will return next week. This week’s column is provided by Don Brunell, who heads the Association of Washington Business.

  • Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1:26pm
  • Opinion

Editor’s note: John Carlson, who normally provides the column appearing here, is on vacation. His column will return next week. This week’s column is provided by Don Brunell, who heads the Association of Washington Business.

In Olympia, a group of lawmakers introduced the 2009 version of the employer gag rule which was pulled off the table a year ago. At the time, Gov. Chris Gregoire said acting on the Washington version of the bill, which union leaders pushed as a primary organizing tool, was premature. She was right.

The governor was awaiting the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar law enacted in California. That verdict is now in and she would be right this year in telling state lawmakers to shelve that legislation for good and not waste taxpayer money dealing with it.

On June 19, the U. S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, struck down the California law, which imposed so-called “union neutrality” requirements on employers. The law limited what employers could say about union organizing campaigns in the workplace. The Supreme Court ruled that the law runs afoul of the First Amendment and the National Labor Relations Act.

The high court’s ruling should have put an end to the so-called “Worker Privacy Act” here in Washington, but it didn’t. Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, has introduced it in the House and Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Seattle, is sponsoring the measure in the Senate.

In these tough economic times, as the unemployment rate rises to 7.1 percent and our state struggles with a projected $6 billion deficit, lawmakers need to focus on spurring the economy, creating jobs and dealing with a serious revenue hole and not on a bill that has already been ruled unconstitutional.

The version being pushed by the AFL-CIO in Washington is even broader than the invalidated California law.

Backers claim the Washington measure is needed to prohibit employers from forcing their religious and political views on their employees. That is just a smokescreen. It really restricts employer opposition to unionization.

The bill trashes First Amendment rights. It bans employer communications about “…matters directly related to candidates, election officials, ballot propositions, legislation, election campaigns, political parties, and political, social, community and labor or other mutual aid organizations.”

There goes the United Way campaign. But that’s collateral damage. So much for freedom of speech.

Union leaders also want to eliminate workers’ First Amendment right to privacy with their “card-check” legislation. Traditionally in workplace organizing efforts, both union representatives and employers provide workers with competing views so employees can make an informed choice in a secret ballot election. But now union leaders want Congress to replace that private ballot with an open “card-check” where organizers circulate cards for or against union representation in the workplace and look over the shoulders of the workers as they fill it out.

Even former Democrat presidential candidate George McGovern, D-South Dakota, says eliminating the secret ballot election is a bad idea.

Back in Washington state, the so-called Worker Privacy Act muzzles employers while leaving the union unfettered. In effect, it imposes a gag rule on employers, prohibiting virtually any communication about union organizing efforts to employees in staff meetings, e-mails or any other “required” communication.

Like the California statute, the Washington bill plows new ground for lawsuits against employers. It lets employees decide for themselves which employer communications can be safely ignored. Employers who run afoul of the law face lawsuits and punitive damages, while employees who inappropriately invoke the law and ignore employers’ legitimate directives cannot be punished.

Just by introducing this bill, state lawmakers are sending an unwelcome message to employers who are considering expanding or relocating to our state.

Last month, our state unemployment rate experienced the biggest one-month jump in 30 years. The Legislature should be encouraging new jobs in Washington. Instead, by entertaining an employer gag rule, they are sending the exact opposite message.

More in Opinion

Supreme Court resets the playing field

The ruling on the Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case wasn’t a win for the right or a loss for the left; it’s a chance to do things right the second time around.

Supreme Court ruling shows sanity, moderation

The 14th Amendment equal protection clause does not negate the First Amendment religious freedom clause.

Initiative signatures are the new greenbacks

As of Wednesday, June 6, petitions for four statewide initiatives were getting circulated.

Public record battle brings in a mediator

A taskforce is also being put together, but it’s not clear who will be on it.

One almond latte, if you please | Wally’s World

There was a time in the distant past when a friend and… Continue reading

There a way to blend values, reinvent our society?

A new study finds white people may become more intolerant as America becomes less white.

I wish I could stay in Enumclaw | Guest Columnist

There is a kindness and decency and desire to be a community in Enumclaw.

We live in frightening times

Our country is being torn apart from limb to limb, coast to coast.

Voting habits tied to feelings of security

The dangers of authoritarianism are a far greater threat to the nation than seeing rising racial equality and religious diversity brought about by immigration.

Gun rights advocates won the battle, but may lose the war

NRA leaders will need to decide if it’s worth putting resources into a fight in a Left Coast state versus investing in efforts to keep Republicans in control of Congress to prevent ideas like this initiative from becoming federal law.

Trump not accomplishing as much as supporters think

This is in response to Craig Chilton’s letter claiming Trump’s presidency is not a mistake because of all of his “accomplishments,” 81 signed pieces of legislation.

Protecting against the abuse of power

Concern about the evil potential of humans is woven into our Constitution’s DNA.