Opinion

Micro-unions: Washington's newest threat to business

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Opinion,Op-Eds

As Virginia's chief jobs creation officer, I am responsible for coordinating our state's economic development efforts across numerous state agencies. Over the past three years, our team has worked hard to position Virginia for success in the face of a very challenging national economic climate.

Fortunately, Virginia has weathered the national economic storm better than most states. That is because we have put a strong emphasis on economic development, invested heavily in proven economic development programs and done everything we can to make certain that we are pursuing pro-business policies in our state.

There are currently 23 million Americans who are unemployed, and the national unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 43 straight months. Yet in Virginia, we have seen our unemployment rate drop from 7.2 percent to 5.9 percent since Gov. Bob McDonnell and I were sworn into office.

Why has Virginia's economy done so much better than the national economy? The answer is simple: leadership.

The Obama administration has spent the past four years pursuing a series of anti-business tax and regulatory policies in Washington, inserting the federal government into key segments of our economy historically preserved for the private sector. They have created an environment in which businesses are afraid to invest and hire.

Now the Obama administration has devised a new scheme that will undermine right-to-work laws and allow the creation of micro-unions to increase union membership. This is a direct affront to states like Virginia, which have chosen the right-to-work model, and it will make it even more difficult for businesses to expand.

Virginia has been a right-to-work state since 1947. In Virginia, employees can decide whether or not they want to associate with a union, and their jobs cannot be placed in jeopardy because of the choice they make. No one can be forced to join a union. This policy has served us well for 65 years.

Micro-unions undermine right-to-work laws by allowing organized labor to go into a workplace, hand-pick employees who want to form a union, and create a micro-union around them. Micro-unions allow unions to be formed not by the preference of the employees as a whole, but rather by each individual department, section or other faction within a workplace.

Micro-unions virtually ensure a 100 percent success rate for big labor, regardless of whether or not a majority of employees in a workplace want to be part of a union shop. Unions are using this carte blanche "create-your-own-union" power that the Obama administration has given them to balkanize and gerrymander workplaces all over the country.

For example, they have won cases dividing employees into special unions at airport rental car counters, ice cream plants, nursing homes and more. In one department store, the National Labor Relations Board recently permitted a micro-union to be formed consisting only of women's shoe department commission sales associates who worked on the second and fifth floors!

Imagine that this is your company. Rather than have a choice about whether or not to participate in a union, your employees would be balkanized into tiny factions and create unions within your workplace on a whim.

In addition, even if your employees choose to unionize, rather than negotiate with one union, you must now negotiate separate contracts with multiple unions representing different factions within your workforce.

Where is the incentive to expand your business and create jobs when each expansion comes with the threat of a new micro-union? If this trend is allowed to continue, it will have a devastating impact on employment in the private sector.

We value jobs in Virginia and the people who create them. We value workers and respect their choice to organize or not. However, we must maintain a level playing field, and we must not undermine our right-to-work laws, which have been such an important part of our state's economic success.

Micro-unions are a threat to the economic viability of our state and our nation, and they should be stopped before they further undermine an already weak economy, resulting in the collapse of more businesses and the loss of more jobs.

Bill Bolling, a Republican, is lieutenant governor of the commonwealth of Virginia.

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