The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Employee Free Choice Threatened by New Lobbying Campaign

2007 Union Membership By StateA new big business lobbying campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA HR1409/S.560) threatens to eviscerate the bill. Starbucks, Whole Foods and CostCo are lobbying together to weaken the pro-labor Cardcheck Bill.

The proposed provisions would tighten some organizing rules in favor of workers and keep the secret ballot, but at the expense of eliminating mandatory arbitration. Mark Ambinder reports that the new provision would also require 70% or workers to sign cards to form a union (cardcheck) vs 50% yes vote by secret ballot.

historical union membership

historical union membership

I don’t see any appeal for organized labor in this “compromise”.  First, mandatory arbitration is a big deal because in many cases firms simply drag out negotiations forever, making sure there is no contract—even when unions are recognized.  And 70% is a high hurdle.   As compromises go, this one will do nothing but compromise unions’ ability to organize more workers and negotiate contracts.

Even if you don’t care about workers’ right to unionize, the fact is that where unions are strong, Democrats win.  Republicans know this, which is why they’ve done everything they can to weaken unions.  Unions also raise wages generally in the population.  As Nathan Newman notes, even non-union workers benefit from unions, because employers increase wages to be competitive, so they aren’t too easy to unionize.

This is a battle worth fighting.


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  1. Shaula

    My favourite line in the Washington Post article you link to is: “Costco, Whole Foods and Starbucks — which have worked to burnish reputations as progressive employers — are working together….”


    The PR departments can “burnish reputations” as much as they want, but this bill is about union busting.

    I hope a LOT of light gets shone on what Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks are going. You don’t get to lobby for union busting legislation and keep your warm and fuzzy happy employer rep. Sorry fellows.

  2. if i’ve read my history books correctly, in 1957 americans manufactured many things that lasted and were of high quality, that they and many others around the world wanted to buy. 33% of their workforce were union members and their middle-class was the most productive and innovative on the planet.

    all while the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest was the smallest of the century, in part due to progressive taxes of which the highest rate was 93% of income over $5million. (the JFK/LBJ tax reduction of January 1964 lowered the highest rate to 70% on income above $1.1million)

    adjusting for inflation, i suspect the modern equivalent would be around $25million and $5million respectively.

    imagine a future US (perhaps within a decade) with a quarter of it’s workforce unionized and say a 46.5% top rate on incomes over $5 million. wouldn’t that bring it’s economy/budgets back a long way towards a proper balance? (especially if they again began makings things of high quality that last?… besides weapons)

  3. please pardon, i mispoke on the wealth gap …

    i should have said:

    “all while the percentage of assets owned by the wealthiest few was the smallest of the century, in part due to progressive taxes..”

  4. Variable

    Great! If I want to unionize the place I work I at least want to do it PRIVATELY and not have my vote recorded for all to see. This is a power grab by Dems supported by Unions. Let me ask a question… If unions are so great why is Detroit falling apart? Detroit should be the best place to live in the entire world, Dem controlled local and state government with some of the largest unions assisting in running the town.

    This is about power and money, the same reason BO wants Illegal Aliens to be able to join the union… to give more money to the union in dues to be re-distributed to politicians as bribes oopps sorry I meant campaign contributions.

    I for one will not give a penny of my salary to any union, I can represent my self when I meet with my boss and I will get paid what I am worth and not what some union rep can negotiate for me (and the next guy whos work ethic sucks and SHOULD be paid less than me) but we will be paid the same in a union….

  5. Ian Welsh

    Sadly, negotiating individually often doesn’t work very well, and the end result is in: the worst income inequality in the 1st world, and stagnant real wages for non supervisory workers over the last 30 years.

  6. If it was reasonable for me to negotiate with all 500,000 owners of a typical mega-corporation I would do so. But it is not reasonable for me to do so. On the other hand, it *is* reasonable for me, plus 500,000 of my fellow employees of a typical mega-corporation, to do so.

    Why anybody thinks that a lone individual going up against half a million owners is a fair negotiation eludes me. It’s like Rachel Corrie standing in front of that Israeli bulldozer. All that happened was that she got flat. One lone individual simply cannot negotiate on a fair scale with a multi-billion dollar corporation, bulldozed is the least of what has happened to such individuals over the past three decades.

  7. Eureka Springs

    ******Starbucks, Whole Foods and CostCo*******

    Could have worked the term ‘food poisoning’ into a title Ian. /s

  8. Hey, Jonathan Mann of RockCookieBottom and composer of the Krugman Song has a rockin’ new song out about the EFCA!

    I LIKE this guy!

    Go, Jonathan!

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