Congressional Committees – Is Anyone Really Listening?
May 26, 2011 will always be remembered as a very special day in my life. I have now had five days to reflect on the importance of the experience of a lifetime. An opportunity to testify in Washington D.C. in front of Congress concerning a topic that could reshape employee rights, business in America and the free market system (see Archived Webcast). This was all thanks to a generous offer by Chairman Roe from Tennessee who invited me to be a witness. Very few people have the opportunity, the distinct honor and privilege to testify before a Congressional committee, let alone concerning such an important topic. This particular opportunity was before the U.S. House of Representatives HELP Committee on the topic of “Corporate Campaigns and the NLRB; The Impact of Union Pressure on Job Creation” as noted in the formal Mr. Bego Invite. Although I am truly humbled by the honor, I must admit to finding the experience to be bittersweet.
Despite a tremendous introduction by Congressman Todd Rokita from Indiana, the fact I had an opportunity to relate some of my story and disseminate important information, it appeared the hearing was utilized by several congressmen merely for political posturing, rather than as a true learning experience. Sadly, the tone of the proceedings makes one question the potential for positive impact and true progress. It was apparent to me that while some congressmen were engaged, and many were open minded and wanted to learn, others were interested only in espousing their particular philosophies, to debate legal and political issues not relevant to the proceeding, and one in particular who was solely interested in attacking witnesses who agreed to testify at their own time and expense in defense of the American right to free choice.
Most Americans would believe that Congressmen would utilize these hearings to learn and represent their constituent’s best interests. However, it was apparent that at least a third of those present had already made up their minds and had little to no interest in witness testimony. I find this to be very troubling. How does America move forward, improve and rise above political pettiness if those who are elected to lead are not willing to listen with an open mind? Isn’t that what we expect of ourselves and our children? Shouldn’t we demand the same of our politicians?
In business I have always found it valuable to listen and to ask pertinent questions, even with those whom I philosophically disagree, as many times it leads to enlightenment and reconciliation. If nothing else I have always learned from the experience and gained insight into the alternative view. Unfortunately for the American people, political priorities and not national interest appeared to be the most important agenda for several of the congressmen.
Many of the Congressmen asked great questions that allowed information to be exposed concerning the ruthlessness of Corporate Campaigns: Vehicle to Forced Unionism and Political Payback and the negative effect of these campaigns on employees, employers, jobs and the economy. Heartfelt thanks go to those who asked meaningful questions and allowed me to expand on the terrible impact corporate campaigns have on job growth.
The hearing was somewhat muddied by injection of the current Boeing situation, which although relevant to current questionable actions by the NLRB, as described in my blog Americans: Beware of Rogue NLRB, has little relevance to Corporate Campaigns. That is with the exception of its potential to set a precedent for future unfair labor practices (ULP’s). Boeing is an extremely important case, which deserves a separate hearing of its own, because it has the potential to set a terrible precedent for government control of the private sector and limitations on American citizen’s freedom of choice.
Of greater concern, however, was the time spent espousing philosophy, debating previous political or legal precedents, and debating the merits of the Boeing case rather than asking relevant, meaningful questions concerning corporate campaigns and their potential impact on employees, employers, jobs and the economy. Only one Democratic congressman asked me a question or follow-up question. It was apparent political posturing was more important than learning the truth. Unfortunately, I am afraid that the same scenario may exist when the subject is important to the liberal agenda and the conservatives are in the minority, which is troubling for America. How do we progress if we can’t interact with open minds? What has happened to civil discourse?
I was particularly troubled by the actions of Congressman John Tierney from Massachusetts. Instead of asking important questions about corporate campaigns, the Congressman chose to attack me through questions regarding my company’s union policy as expressed in the company employee manual. This despite the fact in my opening remarks I emphasized I am not anti-union and that, as a company, EMS simply believes employees enjoy better compensation and the company is more productive and profitable without a union.
Secondly, he quoted a section from The Devil at My Doorstep on page 163 where I related that I was not surprised (and am still not surprised) that the NLRB, through possible persuasion from the White House, decided to appeal an overwhelming decision in EMS’s favor by Administrative Law Judge Amchan, who stated that testimony by union witnesses was unbelievable and contrived. It is well known and publicly documented that SEIU President Andy Stern (see The Drama Queen is at it Again) was spending an inordinate amount of time in the White House at the time of these events. His influence was seen through President Obama’s recess appointment of former SEIU attorney Craig Becker to the NLRB in the time frame immediately preceding the appeal. The General Counsel of the Board in Washington D.C. is the chief enforcement officer with regards to the National Labor Relations Act, and the order for the regional office to appeal came from Washington D.C. In light of the fact that our case was principally based on credibility decisions by Judge Amchan which are generally not subject to appeal by the Board, there was no reason for this case to be appealed. Despite these facts no one to date has provided a more plausible reason for the appeal of EMS’s victory. Instead, Mr. Tierney decided to attack me rather than ask valid questions to learn more about the details of corporate campaigns. His attack, although not totally unexpected, was déjà vu of the SEIU and Its Corporate Campaigns.
Mr. Tierney attempted to bully me and talk over me rather than be civil and allow me to expand on my answers. As I learned in my dealings with the SEIU, you cannot allow people like this to bully you. I, therefore, continued to expand on my answers despite his rude behavior. As I was speaking I was subconsciously thinking Mr. Tierney must have been prepared by the SEIU, as his behavior was consistent with my SEIU Persuasion of Power experience during the corporate campaign. They will only debate if they have the upper hand, as Mr. Tierney had in this particular instance. Based on my experience, this is a trait typical of a person/organization that cannot debate the merits of a subject, but instead can only attack vociferously to win the debate. When I returned home I Google searched Tierney and the SEIU and the following link was at the top of the list (see SEIU’s Website).
This came as no surprise, but left me disappointed. The American people deserve better from their politicians on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, too many politicians depend on political donations to stay in office and as a result are committed to their handlers/benefactors objectives instead of what is right for America.
Americans need to demand more non-partisan openness, research, dialogue and civility from their elected officials on both sides of the aisle. However, with that said, where else in the world could a small businessman have the opportunity to express his opinion/experiences in the heart of the nation’s capitol without fear of retribution and hopefully make a difference that could change the course of his beloved country for the better… Only in America.
About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.