Never let a good crisis go to waste

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Apparently, one of the ways American businesses will be rewarded for enduring shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic is to have their First Amendment rights eroded.

In exchange for taking a direct loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, eligible borrowers with between 500 and 10,000 employees will have to make a “good faith certification” that they will remain neutral — i.e., silent — in any union-organizing effort during the term of the loan.

“There was no need to change the law, which struck a good balance.”

Translation: Any business with between 500 and 10,000 employees that takes a loan under the program would not be able to communicate with its employees about unionization. They would not be able to present their side of what unionization could mean to their business and to their employees.

What this has to do with fighting COVID-19, I’m sure I don’t know, but it isn’t the only last-minute, anti-business provision stuffed inside a massive piece of must-pass legislation. That CARES was contaminated by Congressional leaders who saw it as an opportunity to play politics, not address a national crisis, helps explain why public approval of Congress tops out at about 20%.

There was no need to change the law, which struck a good balance. Both sides — the would-be union and company management — got to make their case for or against unionization, and then employees decided what was in their best interests. In addition to the constitutional issue associated with what amounts to a gag order on businesses, the revision limits a worker’s ability to make a fully informed decision.

Yes, it likely will be challenged in court the first time a business has standing to file a lawsuit, but that’s a process that could take years, not to mention time and expense that is better spent on business development.

In case you’re wondering, the other anti-business provision in the CARES Act creates a perverse incentive regarding unemployment insurance. Critics charge that because of this change, a large segment of the U.S. workforce can make more money by not working, which could put the labor shortage on steroids.

If so, that won’t be easy to unwind, but there is a nonlegislative remedy that could mitigate the damage, at least when it comes to able-bodied married men who milk it. The remedy is a spouse/partner who gives him a good, swift kick in the pants when he becomes a couch potato.

Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.