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Washington Outlook Archive

Business Groups Fight Labor Organization Legislation

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A high-powered business coalition, including textile and apparel manufacturers, is stepping up efforts to defeat legislation that would overhaul the way union elections are held. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) currently has 40 Senate and 225 House co-sponsors, and President Barack Obama has endorsed it.

On May 5, the 580-member Coalition for a Democratic Workplace wrote to every member of the Senate, saying the legislation "severely undermines long standing principles of balance and fairness in federal labor law." The National Council of Textile Organizations and the American Apparel and Footwear Association were among the signers of the letters.

The EFCA would direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union as a bargaining agent on the basis of a majority of signed cards and would take away an employer's right to decide whether to use the card check or require a secret ballot. It also would provide mandatory injunctions for unfair practices during an organizing campaign.

The business coalition says the EFCA represents "egregious attempts to limit the rights of employees and employers and will severely diminish the ability of US business to succeed in our globally competitive market." They contend that union access provisions in the legislation would give non-employee, professional union organizers the right to enter a workplace during work hours to solicit support during a union organizing campaign. They say, "Union access provisions will significantly disrupt the working environment of a business, severely hampering day-to-day operations as employees could be approached by professional union organizers while they are performing their job."

The coalition says current federal law permits both union organizers and employers the right to make their cases to employees.

The American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) contends the legislation would enable workers to bargain for improved benefits, wages and working conditions in an atmosphere where they could not be unduly influenced by employers.

While there have been some suggestions of compromise on the legislation, including a shorter time frame for deciding elections, the coalition says flat out, "There can be no acceptable compromise."

May 12, 2009