Well before the Wisconsin recall transfixed the political scene, Mitt Romney had accumulated a raft of proposals designed to minimize the power of organized labor.
His Web site lists a number of these:
● Appoint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) experienced individuals with respect for the rule of law;
● Amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to explicitly protect the right of business owners to allocate their capital as they see fit;
● Reverse executive orders issued by President Obama that tilt the playing field toward organized labor;
● Amend the NLRA to guarantee the secret ballot in every union-certification election;
● Amend the NLRA to guarantee that all pre-election campaigns last at least one month;
● Support states in pursuing right-to-work laws; and
● Prohibit the use for political purposes of funds automatically deducted from worker paychecks.
Romney has also proposed cutting the federal workforce and repealing the Davis-Bacon Act, the New Deal-era statute that requires government contractors to pay prevailing union-wage rates. This jacks up the cost of projects, which can force small contractors out of the bidding.
In this, however, Romney should be careful of overreach. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) took on public employee unions, not private-sector unions, and he did so in order to directly benefit the taxpayers and improve government efficiency. If Romney is perceived as going after “working stiffs,” he will fall prey to the “rich-guy ogre” stereotype.
He, therefore, would be wise to keep his proposals in perspective. First, focus on the inequities and inherent conflicts of interest regarding public employee unions — by, for example, prohibiting elected officials and their designees from collective bargaining with those who have given campaign donations (or by making such agreements subject to confirmation by a supermajority of the state legislature).
Second, don’t appoint business flunkies to the NLRB just because President Obama put his stooges in. There are attorneys and non-lawyers (such as professional labor arbitrators) who are perceived as balanced and unbiased. The focus should be on finding qualified board members with integrity. And finally, return the Labor Department to its original charter, which is to provide a level playing field where employees can choose to organize or not to organize.
The real pitch for Romney is that he’s not in the pocket of Big Labor and can therefore make the tough decision on the side of the taxpayers, not on the side of a narrow special-interest group. That message will resonate in many parts of the country.