Card check battles
Associations fight 'free choice' legislation
A franchisee could go to bed on a Friday night and then walk into work Monday morning to find his business unionized.
When the battle over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) intensifies this spring, the nation's franchise community will be in the fray.
At issue is a proposed law, commonly called "Card Check," which could make it easier for unions to organize workers. Card Check was defeated by Congress in 2005 and 2007, but now has the support of President Barack Obama and could pass in the Democratic-controlled Congress. To prevent that, the International Franchise Association is asking franchisors and franchisees to bombard their representatives and senators with visits, letters, faxes, e-mails and text messages, said David French, the association's vice president of government relations.
Currently, unions organize workers under the National Labor Relations Act. If 30 percent or more employees present a petition or signed union cards to an employer, a secret ballot election may be held. Proponents of Card Check say that's unfair, because employers can intimidate workers to vote against unionizing, and in some cases may fire workers who lead the organizing effort.
Under EFCA, if 50 percent plus one of all workers sign cards asking for union representation, the employer must start negotiating with the union. If the parties can't agree on a contract in 120 days, the issue goes to binding arbitration. This, said French, is unfair to employers, especially to franchisees who would not have a chance to tell their workers about the downsides of unionizing, such as paying dues. "A small business owner could go to bed on a Friday night," French said, "with no knowledge that his workers are meeting with a union representative at the local bowling alley. He will walk into work on Monday morning and find out his business has been organized."
EFCA was introduced in the House and Senate in March, prompting strong opposition from opponents. The IFA has joined an anti-Card Check lobbying effort, the Coalition for a Democratic Workforce, whose mission is to save the secret ballot and prevent the resurgence of organized labor. The National Restaurant Association has its own lobbying group, the Restaurant Action Network. The Coalition of Franchisee Associations is also fighting it.
French noted that a study released on March 5th by the Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs, reported that the unionization of 1.5 million jobs under EFCA in one year would lead to the loss of 600,000 jobs by the following year. "This is an outrageous power grab by the unions," French said.