‘Written By CEOs, For CEOs’: Dems Pan Biz-Friendly Compromise on Employee Free Choice

While official Washington remains publicly preoccupied with executive compensation and the bailout, labor and business interests continue jockeying for position on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) ahead of its likely congressional consideration in the summer.

The latest round came this weekend, when the CEOs of Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks offered an EFCA compromise that would deny workers the right to arbitration with employers who resist union organizing efforts.

Backers of the EFCA “alternative” have enlisted Lanny Davis, the former Clinton White House adviser turned supporter of Joe Lieberman’s 2006 re-election bid, to plead their case on the Hill. And it’s not going well so far, to say the least — senior Democrats are pushing back hard at the compromise offer with a series of talking points that blast the EFCA “alternative” as “written by CEOs, for CEOs.”

TPMDC has obtained a copy of the complete memo on the business-friendly deal, which is available after the jump. The takeaway is clear: Senior Democrats aren’t buying what Davis is helping Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks try to sell.

Some key problems with the proposal include:

· The proposal eliminates workers’ ability to choose majority sign-up, the one method for organizing proven to reduce coercion and pressure from all sides on workers. Instead, the proposal would force all workers through the broken, corporate-dominated NLRB system.

· The proposal rejects first contract arbitration — a tried and proven method for ensuring good faith bargaining and one of the core elements of the Employee Free Choice Act. Under this proposal, employers would continue to have the union-busting power to drag out bargaining indefinitely and keep employees from gaining the kind of enforceable contracts that CEOs always give themselves. First contract arbitration provides the necessary incentive for the parties to reach agreement on their own terms.

· Rather than respecting employees’ choice, the proposal gives CEOs the power to initiate drives to eliminate unions. Current law forbids corporate-initiated decertification campaigns, for good reason. Instead of bargaining a contract in good faith, employers would be initiating drives to get rid of the workers’ chosen representative. Organizing a union or getting rid of a union should be the workers’ choice, not the CEO’s.

· Rather than offering a level playing field, the proposal preserves CEOs’ ability to force employees to attend one-on-one meetings with supervisors or mandatory mass anti-union meetings at work. We do not tolerate such undemocratic, coercive behavior in federal elections. Yet, while forcing employees to go through the NLRB election process, the proposal would preserve this coercive aspect of corporate-dominated NLRB elections.

· The proposal does not offer pro-union workers or union organizers the same access that employers have to workers. In fact, the proposal does not improve access to workers one iota. According to the proposal, unions and management would be “permitt[ed] each to make presentations to employees at a neutral location concerning the issue of whether to form a union.” Nothing in current law forbids such presentations at a neutral location. The problem is that the one place workers convene everyday, the workplace, is off-limits to union organizers and completely controlled and monopolized by management. While management has no restrictions on campaigning at work, both the union and workers are severely restricted.

· Strengthening and growing America’s middle class depends on the ability of employees to exercise their democratic rights at work. The Employee Free Choice Act is simple: it will help our economy work for everyone again by giving workers, not CEOs, a say about their job security, their wages, their retirement savings and their health care. Workers will not benefit if CEOs continue to have a veto over their rights at work.

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