Martinez opposes Obama budget and Employee Free Choice Act

03/30/09 Seán Kinane
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Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator Mel Martinez spoke this morning to the Tampa Bay Partnership, an economic development organization. As the Senate tries to pass a budget, Martinez pledged to battle funding for health care and for controlling climate change saying those initiatives “really can wait” and “ought to be deferred.”

Like some other Senate Republicans Martinez does not like the budget suggested by President Barack Obama. Martinez says, “We have a serious set of differences between what the President has proposed and what some of us in Congress believe is what we should be doing with the budget.”

“My concern, the concern of many others is the enormous deficit that it will create. Not just for this year, not just for next year, but for ongoing into the future, deficits that I believe are unsustainable. And so that’s why I think it’s important to look at the proposed budget and begin to trim it down.”

President Obama’s plan to control the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate disruption is a cap and trade system. It will cap the total amount of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere and will allow companies to trade the right to pollute. Martinez calls Obama’s $646 billion allocation for cap and trade “very, very negative.”

“My concern with that is that the state of Florida is so coal-dependent, because that is what fuels our plants, that is what creates our energy in the state of Florida. We have no availability of wind. We have no availability of solar. We have no hydroelectric. We really have got to rely on what we’ve been doing. Now, obviously, we know that going forward into the future green technologies are what we need to enhance and create, but there has to be a more gradual transition from one thing to another than what this budget proposes.”

But a study for the Florida Public Service Commission released last November determined that there is an “immediate opportunity” for solar energy in Florida and that “offshore wind has a large technical potential” in the state. Martinez suggests the cap and trade system would amount to a regressive sales tax and says he hopes to eliminate it from the budget.

Another program Martinez says he will try to cut from the proposed budget is Obama’s $600 billion health care initiative.

“We ought to be honest about that and recognize that we’ve got to have -- every American ought to be insured. There ought to be a place for every American to get health care. That I think ought to be done in the private sector, with private insurance, with government help and so I am concerned that at this moment in time, again, when we should be laser beam focused on the economy that we’re getting too broad and too stretched into issues that really can wait that ought to be deferred until such time as we get our economy moving again.”

The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to recognize a union if more than fifty percent of employees sign cards saying they want to form a union. For that reason, it’s also called the “card check” bill. Under current law, employers can instead force employees to hold a secret-ballot election before recognizing a union. Card check is opposed by anti-union forces, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Martinez calls the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, a “great concern to myself and many others.”

“To take away the secret ballot as people might vote on whether to unionize a workplace or not I think is a fundamental un-American thing. For more than a hundred years, that right has been enshrined in our laws providing for a secret ballot for union organizing. To now have this become something that can just be checked off on a card as a union organizer meets a worker in the parking lot and maybe has two or three friends with him or her – I just don’t think it’s a fair way to deal with America’s workers. I think people ought to be given a free choice and a secret ballot is the way to ensure that. So I am unalterably opposed to card check.”

The type of intimidation of employees by their co-workers described by Martinez has rarely been documented, according to labor leaders, whereas there are frequent examples of employers harassing employees who are trying to unionize.

Martinez has announced that he will not run for a second term in the Senate, fueling speculation about whom -- including Governor Charlie Crist -- might run for his seat. But Martinez would not say who his favorite is.

Martinez spoke Monday at the Port of Tampa and praised a proposed freeway connector between the port and I-4.

Sen. Mel Martinez

Previous WMNF coverage of renewable energy in Florida

Previous WMNF coverage of Employee Free Choice Act

Democracy Now! debate on EFCA

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