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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The latest volley in a steady stream of federal government initiatives to attack small businesses was introduced into both houses of Congress this week. Following passage of a new federal excise tax increase on tobacco and huge government spending programs that many economists predict will result in higher inflation and onerous new taxes, lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced the so-called Employee Free Choice Act this week.
Also called the Card Check bill because it forces employers to accept a union based on signed union authorization cards rather than the traditional secret ballot, the Employee Free Choice Act is one of organized labor's top priorities under the new Democratic-controlled federal government.
Passage of the bills, introduced by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, would make it much easier for a union to organize workers and get a "yes" vote. Critics of the legislation point out it would also make it much easier for union organizers to harass and intimidate workers to sign the authorization cards.
"The Employee Free Choice Act would replace for retailers and their employees the private ballot when deciding whether or not to join a union," said Chris Tampio, NACS senior director of government relations. NACS is one of several organizations that oppose the legislation.
"Under this system, paid union organizers -- not the federal government -- oversee the process, and the workers’ choice is ultimately made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers," Tampio continued. "It is hard for most retailers and their employees to see how this labor law change will be fair to all the participants or help create jobs during this recession."
Under current law, when it may appear clear that a union enjoys a majority of employees’ support, employers are allowed to waive the secret ballot election requirement and recognize a union that produces signed union authorization cards from more than 50 percent of the employees. Unions have abused this provision by launching attacks on employers in an effort to pressure them to agree to card elections, even where it’s not clear that the union enjoys the support of a majority of the employees.
One group is taking the battle against the Card Check bill to the grass roots level. The United Fresh Produce Association strongly opposes the dangerous public policy contained in this bill, which it said would strip workers of their right to a secret-ballot in union election.
"The fight to prevent card check from becoming the law of the land is an uphill battle," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "The House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a similar bill last year, and the Senate barely blocked that legislation. Now, the tenor in the Senate seems even more foreboding of taking away workers’ rights, and President Obama has said that he will sign the bill into law if it passes. These are perilous times for democracy when it comes to choosing which, if any, union workers want to represent them."
Stenzel vowed to take the fight over card check to every Congressional district but outlined a strategy to target a few key Senators in swing states in order to block the legislation. He announced the formation of the Card Check Grassroots Networks in eight key states:
These states were chosen in consultation with the leadership of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), the broad-based business organization leading opposition to card check. United Fresh is a member of the Steering Committee of CDW, which is a national coalition including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and groups representing almost every industry sector with major employment. CDW also implemented state coalitions to bring all business sectors together, and United will integrate members of its produce industry grassroots teams into this larger network as well.
Each state grassroots network will bring together companies and individuals from the entire produce supply chain in each state, building not only upon the grower agricultural base that may be present, but calling on all processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, restaurants and allied suppliers in each state. The grassroots team within each state will be led by a member chairman or co-chairs with a goal of building the widest possible network of individuals to call and write letters to Congress, meet with their Senators in their home state, provide letters and editorials to local newspapers, call on their friends and neighbors to educate them on the danger of card check and generally lead the charge in this highly targeted effort.
The United Fresh Card Check Resource Center is now available for all members to learn about the issues and make their views known about this legislation. For more information contact Kam Quarles at [email protected] or (202) 303-3427.