Feature:Opinion

Union leadership opposes bill that increases their members’ pay

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Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform
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      Grover Norquist

      Mr. Norquist, a native of Massachusetts, has been one of Washington's most effective issues management strategists for over two decades.

      Mr. Norquist is president of <a href="http://www.atr.org/">Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)</a>, a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state and local levels. ATR organizes the TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. To date, 172 House members, and 34 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 7 governors and over 1100 state legislators have taken the pledge.

      Mr. Norquist also:

      * Serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association of America.
      * Serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union.
      * Serves as a Contributing Editor to the American Spectator Magazine.
      * Serves as president of the American Society of Competitiveness.
      * Authored the book Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives

      In the past, Mr. Norquist served as:

      * A commissioner on the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce.
      * A commissioner on the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service.
      * Economist and chief speech-writer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (1983-1984).
      * Campaign staff on the 1988, 1992, 1996 Republican Platform Committees.
      * Executive director of the National Taxpayers’ Union.
      * Executive director of the College Republicans.

      In the words of Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist is "the person who I regard as the most innovative, creative, courageous and entrepreneurial leader of the anti-tax efforts and of conservative grassroots activism in America . . . He has truly made a difference and truly changed American history."

      P.J. O'Rourke says, "Grover Norquist is Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupcon of Madame Defarge."

      Arianna Huffington calls Norquist "The dark wizard of the Right's anti-tax cult"

      Mr. Norquist holds a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, both from Harvard University. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Samah and his daughters, Grace, and Giselle.

Democrats have long been the party that punishes success — Senate Democrats are advocating for the “Buffett Rule,” a millionaires’ tax, while a pillar of President Obama’s re-election campaign is that people making $250,000 should give the government more money. Conservatives correctly worry that prohibitive tax rates deter hard work by removing compensation incentives, effectively capping workers’ wages.

Unbeknownst to most people, explicit wage caps are already in place for nearly 8 million unionized, middle-class workers — nearly all union contracts set both a wage floor and ceiling. Looking to eliminate artificial wage caps, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced the RAISE Act, legislation which would keep in place the union-negotiated minimum wage but eliminate the maximum wage.

It is currently illegal for an employer to give a unionized employee a bonus, which is a shame, since unionized businesses often want to reward their hardest working employees. While a pat on the back is nice, more money is better. Businesses know the benefits of performance pay; linking worker compensation to both effort and output leads to a more satisfied workforce and can increase both wages and profits — everybody wins. Quantitatively, passing the RAISE Act or instituting merit pay would increase workers’ salaries by $2,700 to $4,500 a year, according to a recent Heritage Foundation study.

At a recent Education and Workforce hearing, the Hudson Institute’s chief economist, Dr. Tim Kane, explained that, “the legislation has no potential to hurt jobs or wages.” Dr. Kane then estimates that “the RAISE Act will generate an average raise of 10 percent to union workers in response to new productivity gains based on new incentives.”

Listening to the union response to the RAISE Act, you would think Congressional Republicans were proposing radical legislation that allows workers to decide whether or not they want to join a union — you know, crazy ideas that come from strange places like Wisconsin. While admitting that the RAISE Act would “allow employers to grant wage increases unilaterally to workers of their choosing,” Teamsters President James Hoffa comes to the conclusion that the legislation is part of a secret Republican plan to “end collective bargaining.”

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry warns that allowing employers to pay their workers more is “a federal attack on your rights at work.” So why are unions opposed to legislation that would allow 7.6 million middle-income workers to make more money?

As it stands now, unions have all the power — which is how they like it. If you get a raise, the union wants you to think it is because of their adept negotiating ability. Most union contracts award raises or bonuses on the premise of tenure or seniority, not merit pay. These one-size-fits-all contracts mean that individual effort and performance go unrewarded; the worker who takes a dozen smoke breaks earns just as much as the toiling employee who works hard and plays by the rules.

Seniority pay is not only inherently unfair, it discourages productivity and locks union workers into their current jobs — a worker who has committed years to slowly advancing up the union pay ladder is less likely to look for a new job.

Unfortunately in D.C., if unions oppose something, so do Democrats. When the Senate voted on the RAISE Act a few weeks ago, nearly every Senate Republican voted for the bill — zero Democrats did.

With Obama responsible for an anemic recovery, the least his party can do is allow workers to contract for higher wages.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and his Twitter handle is @GroverNorquist