Is “Card Check” Racist?

A new study on the Employee Free Choice Act finds that the ill-named legislation would deliberately harm minorities (HT: The Union Label)

This proposal would likely expand labor hierarchy, labor market cartelization and diminish the employment prospects of racial minorities.

The full study, authored by Harry Hutchinson of the George Mason School of Law, also highlights Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law (citing, among others, Chris Dodd’s commentary on that subject):

Consider one contemporary example illustrating this point. Since construction began on the Philadelphia Convention Center, the city’s black construction workers have protested the lack of opportunity for minority workers on public construction projects. Unwilling to risk losing political support from unions by challenging their discriminatory hiring practices, Mayor Nutter chose instead to issue a report on minority hiring goals.

Fashioned after the federal Davis-Bacon Act, Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law passed in 1961, is currently the root cause behind the limited number of black workers on cityfunded projects. Pennsylvania prevailing wage law honors the legacy of Robert Bacon, co-author of the Davis-Bacon Act, who denied anti-African American animus, but made clear his discomfort with “defective” workers taking jobs that “belonged” to white union men.

Pennsylvania’s statute was initially designed to limit opportunities for out-of-state black workers, but this process has now been inverted. Instead of preventing black workers in other states from taking construction jobs in Philadelphia, this law allows unions to ship mostly white workers from other states to the city in order to prevent Pennsylvania’s black laborers from working on prevailing wage projects. Because this paradigm conceives of blacks as “undeserving” workers who “wrongly” lower the wages and employment prospects of members of racially superior groups, this type of intentional or collateral damage is a grotesque form of discrimination.

But even if a trustworthy judge could strip the prevailing wage policy of its racist heritage, its exclusionary effects remain intact. As Reformists have already shown, the degree of blameworthiness does not necessarily limit the capacity of a policy to stifle the rate of black progress. Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage enhances the economic returns and social status that accrue to white workers and vitiates the returns and contributes to the dislocation of African Americans. Perhaps unwilling to risk sustained opposition from politically powerful trade unionists, the Mayor might attempt to shelter the city’s inaction by asserting that the statute, at issue, is neutral and progressive. Whether the prevailing wage law can be protected as a neutral enactment and whether the local building trades union, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, can be seen as a progressive instrument for societal transformation, Critical Race Reformist analysis finds racism and exclusion already there.