Sunday, March 22, 2009

EFCA Lite?

OK, so I think we're all familiar now with the fight over the Employee Free Choice Act (or EFCA) in DC. Basically the unions are fighting to get this passed so workers can choose over whether and how to unionize, while the "bidness lobby" is working hard to torpedo this legislation. The battle is heated now, especially with both sides amping up media advertising for and against EFCA.

But wait! What's that out on the horizon? A compromise! A compromise?

Three big retailers are expected to back an alternative proposal next week on a hotly contested bill that would make it easier to unionize workplaces, a move some experts said would bolster the legislation's chance of passage.

Costco Wholesale Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. are supporting the alternative proposal, according to someone familiar with the effort. Ray Krupin, a management labor lawyer in Washington said the most likely compromise would allow employees to unionize if 70% of them sign union-authorization cards, as opposed to 50% as currently proposed in the Employee Free Choice Act.

On Saturday, a person close to the discussions denied that the proposal backed by the three companies included a plan to let unions organize workers if 70% sign cards.

It's unclear whether the proposal addresses a thorny section of the bill that would have a government arbitrator draw up a contract if unions and companies can't agree to terms within 120 days.

Charles Lemos has more details about it at MyDD. But so far from what I've seen of this compromise, I'm calling bullsh*t on it.

Why? First off, 70% is too ridiculously high a threshold to ask union organizers to overcome. With all the power these giant corporations still have to intimidate workers, it can be notoriously difficult to get at least 70% of them to ask for an official vote to unionize.

Secondly, they continue to act as if compromise is needed to "protect workers' right to choose" when really it isn't. In fact, that's why we need the Employee Free Choice Act! It would give workers the choice on unionization instead of the corporate executives.

And worse yet, one of the companies involved in this compromise deal doesn't exactly have a history of friendly relations with unions. Whole Foods puts on a nice "socially responsible" front, but in reality they are nearly as brutal as Wal-Mart in their union busting. Perhaps Costco and Starbucks are looking for a fair compromise, but I don't think I can even trust them if they're teaming up with Whole Foods on an EFCA compromise that would radically diminish the integrity of the bill.

So what are we to conclude on this "EFCA Lite" proposal? It may sound reasonable, but it still places too many hurdles on the path for workers to organize. I'm glad some companies are realizing that they're better off negotiating than fighting, but they still need to give more before I can really agree to whatever they offer.


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