Apparently Lanny Davis is behind the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) “compromise” suggested by Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. The companies candidly dump on the idea of doing away with the secret ballot or imposing mandatory arbitration:
Whole Foods Market chief executive John Mackey said that binding arbitration is “not the way we normally do things in the United States” and that allowing workers to organize without a secret ballot “violates a bedrock principle of American democracy.”
And the CEOs also do not share the labor movement’s underlying belief that the decline of organized labor has contributed to income inequality and the economy’s current imbalance. “That so few companies are unionized is not for a lack of trying but because [unions] are losing elections — workers aren’t choosing to have labor representation,” Mackey said. “I don’t feel things are worse off for labor today.”
. . .
Giving organizers the ability to use card check, [Starbucks CEO Howard]Schultz said, would lead to a slew of separate bargaining units at a company like his, leading to “havoc and significant cost and disruption.” Mackey had an even grimmer view. “Armed with those weapons, you will see unionization sweep across the United States and set workplaces at war with each other,” he said. “I do not think it would be a good thing.”
The anti-card check forces probably can add those lines to those of Warren Buffet and George McGovern for one big “everyone you ever heard of opposes card check” ad. But something is strange here.
The three companies are peddling a hodgepodge of pro-union ideas that have been rattling around for a couple of decades:
[I]t would also toughen penalties for union violations, and it would make it easier for businesses to call elections to try to decertify a union.
To address labor’s concern that businesses intimidate workers before elections, it would set a fixed period in which an election must be held, limiting the delays that give employers time to exert pressure. The proposal does not specify what the time period should be.
The proposal would also provide unions equal access to workers before elections — for instance, by allowing organizers to address workers on a lunch break in the company cafeteria just as management can.
(By the way these companies could give unions equal access to their employees now, so why don’t they?) This is a message to Big Labor –card check is a loser and this alternative is what the White House can get behind? Seems odd Lanny Davis would be claiming that his approach is consistent with Obama’s attempt to make organizing easier if he didn’t have a wink-wink from the White House. Big Labor is not buying this in any event. But shouldn’t they be nervous that they’re being given the brush off from the White House?
Even odder is the reaction of some anti-card check lobbying forces which seemed intent on ignoring what the companies are actually proposing. You’d think they’d be throwing a party when Lanny Davis is reduced to hawking a grab bag of half-measures, because not even big Democratic donor CEO’s can bring themselves to support card check.
So what does all this really mean? Most people who can count votes in Congress have figured out that EFCA is going nowhere — at least for the foreseeable future. So the scramble begins for pro-Big Labor operatives and their allies to find ways of retreating and declaring victory in the face of defeat. But make no mistake: the central planks of EFCA — doing away with the secret ballot and mandatory arbitration — are withering on the legislative vine, no matter what the spinners say.