Tuesday Was a Banner Day For Unions

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Unions, still giddy over putting their man in the White House and consolidating Democrat power in Congress, see 2009 as a year of effort-free labor organization.

Expect them to push for quick passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Also called card-check legislation, the bill would eliminate secret ballots and allow unions to be certified when a majority of employees sign the cards now used to gauge interest in voting on union participation.

Big Labor, which spent more than $53 million in the just-finished election cycle to get Democrats elected, shouldn't have to work hard. The Democratic Congress will be eager to pass the bill, and the Democratic president will be pleased to sign it.

At present, workers vote by secret ballot in union organizing elections to keep coercion to a minimum. But under the card-check system, the potential for intimidation is limitless. Pressure to sign by union organizers could wilt even the strongest man who doesn't want to be a member of the collective.

With a righteous wind at their backs and card-check legislation in their pockets, unions will aggressively try to organize low-price retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. This might result in higher wages for some workers, but it could also increase prices for consumers as well as drive now-successful retailers into the same economic ditch that unions shoved the U.S. auto industry into.

Then come the layoffs required to offset the higher payroll costs and keep prices competitive. Hurt the most will be those at the bottom of the economic ladder — the very people that Democrats and their union supporters claim to look out for.

Wal-Mart, with 7,000 stores and 2 million employees, is not only the world's largest retailer and one of America's largest employers. With a price structure that has helped keep inflation in check, it's a genuine public benefactor.

Economic analysts at Global Insight found that from 1985 through 2004, domestic retail food prices fell 9.1% due to Wal-Mart's pricing and the competition it provoked. Prices of other goods declined 4.2%, and overall consumer prices eased 3.1%.

Global Insight also reckoned that because of Wal-Mart, consumers saved $263 billion over those years, with a family of five averaging annual savings of almost $225.

A unionized Wal-Mart or Target could also impact health care costs. The $4 prescriptions pioneered two years ago by Wal-Mart, and since matched by Target and drugstore chains, could melt as quickly as an ice cube on a Bentonville sidewalk in August.

A Zogby poll found that 71% of union members agree that the secret-ballot process is fair, while only 13% disagree. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) favor the system the way it is.

Meanwhile, nonunion workers, by more than a 3-1 margin, don't want to join organized labor. Though few in these majorities are likely to understand the economic impact of a card-check law, they have at least found the right side of the issue.

It shouldn't be too much to ask a simple majority in at least one congressional chamber to do the same.

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