A pro-union move that will put 'democracy' to the test

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

There's no doubt that unions have been slowly dying for several decades.

But that doesn't mean revival attempts don't keep popping up. In fact, newly proposed legislation could give them quite a boost. At your expense.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and several fellow Democrats with an eye on the White House are behind the latest effort, which they are euphemistically calling the “Workplace Democracy Act.”

But don't let the name fool you. From an operator's perspective, there's not much in the proposal that might even remotely be called democratic.

For starters, the measure would put the kibosh on elections as a way to establish worker unions. Instead, all that would be required is a sign-up process that gets a majority of the employees' signatures.

The bill also would mandate that skilled care operators and other firms negotiate with a new union within 10 days of receiving a request. Further, the proposal requires workers in every state to pay union dues and greatly expands the definition of an “employer.” And by the way, “right to work” statutes would be prohibited. Yes, it all seems quite democratic, doesn't it?

As a practical matter, this is more of a wet kiss to organized labor than anything else. It's the legislative equivalent of baseball general manager throwing away his 40th pick in the draft to select the daughter of his administrative assistant. In other words, it's a nice gesture.

There's not a serious political observer or lawmaker who thinks this bill will pass before pigs master flight.

But here's the thing: In politics, you just never know. President John F. Kennedy Kennedy's civil rights agenda was dead in the water – and then he was assassinated. Donald Trump had no chance of being elected, and then the Democratic National Committee decided to coronate Hillary Clinton.

There's just no telling how and when fate might intervene. Yes, this bill sure looks like a nothing burger. But it is in play. And far stranger things than its passage have happened. Stay tuned.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.