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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Silence ‘Em?

Guest commentary by Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

There’s a saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Some business opponents have turned that phrase on its head—if they can’t win the war of ideas with business in the political arena, then they seek to exclude business’ voice from the national debate altogether. Examples abound.

Recently, the federal government issued two new rules that continue a pattern of silencing the business community. On June 20, the Department of Labor proposed a new disclosure rule that would complicate and hamstring the ability of employers to present their views on unionization to employees. The rule would implement a burdensome process for businesses to disclose who is counseling them on labor matters. It’s apparently designed to encourage employers to bite their tongues and let arguments for unionization go unanswered and unchallenged.

The next day, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) piled on with its proposal to shorten the period for union elections. This would leave employers little time to express their views and communicate to workers the pros and cons of unionization. Employees should have the right to join or leave unions under fair rules. Neither business nor labor should fear a full airing of the issues surrounding potential unionization. NLRB’s mission is to fairly apply carefully balanced and time-honored rules on union elections, not choose sides or tilt the playing field.

Here’s another example. Before the 2010 elections, leaders of the congressional majority at that time attempted to ram through the DISCLOSE Act, with the express intention of altering the elections in their favor by effectively preventing political participation by the business community. In the wake of that legislative defeat, the White House is now weighing an executive order that would require businesses and their officers to disclose political spending as a precondition to securing federal contracts. Three guesses who will be awarded contracts. And who wouldn’t this executive order touch? Union bosses.

The nation is debating some of the most consequential issues of our time. As America’s job creators, businesses must have a voice in the debate. They must be allowed to engage in the political and government contracting processes without being subject to litmus tests or fearing retribution. And they must expect fair and open union organizing rules.

Ultimately, policies that seek to shut up businesses and abridge their First Amendment rights are un-American, unconstitutional, and unfit for a free society. These policies undermine the very democracy they claim to protect. There is no room for them in America today.


Posted on July 5, 2011

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