News/Campaigns/Labor

Little love for compromise in anti-'card check' group's recess plans

A compromise on "card check" legislation is no better than the original proposals in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), one key group opposed to "card check" legislation will emphasize over the August recess.

The Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) will look to go on the offensive in the coming month, launching messaging seeking to block any compromise on EFCA.

"As we head into the August recess, pro-EFCA Senators are no closer to securing passage of the job-killing legislation than they were before news reports of a so-called 'compromise,'" the group's August recess memo says.

"While there are not enough votes to pass EFCA or 'compromise' legislation that includes mandatory, binding arbitration, we can not lose sight of the strategic goal of taking the messaging fight to the union bosses over the course of the Congressional break," the memo reads.

For their part, organized labor groups are planning a recess push as well.

SEIU is touting the 400 events they are holding across the country over the next month.

"Our message this recess is clear," the group's memo says. "There are consequences to not changing the status quo: consequences for families, consequences for our economy and consequences for members of Congress."

For WFI, there seems to be little room for compromise.

"The only way for the conversation to move forward is to take [EFCA] completely off the table, meaning both the elimination of the secret ballot and mandatory, binding arbitration are no longer part of the discussion in any form," the group's memo says.
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Episcopal Church votes to endorse 'card check' bill

Weeks after claiming the head of the Roman Catholic Church as a supporter of "card check," one labor group is claiming the Episcopal Church as a backer of the union organizing legislation.

Episcopalian bishops and other top officials voted at its annual meeting to approve a resolution endorsing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), reasoning that the legislation would help protect employees' rights.

The claim about Episcopal backing for EFCA may ring a bit more concrete than previous assertions about Catholic backing for the "card check" bill. Those claims were based on inferences drawn from Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate."

"The Episcopal Church has a long record of support for the freedom of workers to form unions and opposition to abusive tactics that prevent them from exercising their right to bargain," the AFL-CIO wrote on its blog. "By passing this resolution, the Episcopal Church joins a coalition of faith groups representing a broad variety of religious traditions in support of the Employee Free Choice Act."
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Anti-'card check' group asks for meeting with Obama

A coalition of business groups and other organizations opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) wrote President Obama Wednesday, asking for a meeting with the president similar to one he held with labor groups earlier this week.

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a confederation of 13 organizations opposed to EFCA (or "card check"), asked Obama for a meeting to explain their opposition to the union organizing legislation.

"According to media reports, you and your staff met recently with the leaders of several labor organizations, and the labor leaders discussed their continuing support for the [EFCA] to be brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives," the coalition wrote. "We would be pleased to meet, at your convenience, and bring you serious, reasoned arguments against card-check organizing and government-mandated, binding interest arbitration."

President Obama met with leaders of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Change to Win, Teamsters, and other organized labor groups at the White House on Monday, during which the president reiterated his support for EFCA and other labor priorities, including healthcare reform.

The Coalition warned businesses would be hurt if EFCA became law, and noted that they "look forward" to a meeting with Obama.

View the full letter after the jump.
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Labor plans biggest 'card check' rally in Wal-Mart's backyard

The AFL-CIO is planning one of the largest state rallies in favor of "card check" legislation on Saturday in the home state of one of organized labor's frequent targets: Wal-Mart,

The union is expecting 1,000 attendees at a rally in Little Rock, Ark. on Saturday, in what the AFL-CIO says is one of the biggest non-D.C. events to date in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Several of the union's national leaders will travel to the rally, which is followed by a catfish fry, and located some 214 miles from Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasure Rich Trumka and Vice President Arlene Holt Baker are expected to speak, along with United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard.

One union official said the rally will have "huge activity" by state standards, while some Washington-centric rallies have had more attendance.

Wal-Mart has long been a target of unions due to its labor practices. You can view the AFL-CIO's "Paying the Price at Wal-Mart" website here.

Update, 2:37 p.m.: Some anti-EFCA groups sent along preemptive comments.

"Since 2005, Little Rock has announced over $1 billion of capital investment from new and expanding companies. These companies, both domestic and international, have created thousands of quality jobs in our region. We strongly believe that Arkansas' status as a 'Right to Work' state gives us an edge with potential new and existing employers when compared to other states in the United States. Yet, these companies also know that a strong, stable and qualified workforce is vital to their success. By taking away an employees' right to choose and also allowing the government to force non-competitive contracts on businesses and employees, this legislation would wreak havoc on many companies ability to survive, much less thrive. All we have to do is look at states with high concentrations of union activity to see the unfortunate results and job loss. Without a strong and competitive business environment, we'll lose thousands of good paying jobs. Arkansas families can't afford that kind of choice." -- Jay Chesshir, President and CEO, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce


"The Employee Free Choice Act is a poorly written piece of legislation that would unfairly saddle Arkansas businesses with burdensome added costs. It would deprive workers of the fundamental right to a secret ballot in organizing elections. The current system, run by the National Labor Relations Board, works and needs no radical change, as this bill would impose. " - Randy Zook, President, Arkansas State Chamber/Associated Industries of Arkansas


"As an African American I am deeply offended that an organization known for a complete lack of diversity, which has never had a minority at its helm, would come lead a 'civil rights' march from Central High School, which is the holy grail of the civil rights movement in Arkansas.

"Today in 2009 African American members of the AFL-CIO are still fighting for diversity in its leadership. There are only five African Americans out of forty members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council. The organization's own research has proven that African Americans are still 'haunted by negative stereotypes and racism' within its ranks. It seems to me that civil rights leaders should be marching on the doors of the AFL-CIO.

"If government used the same leadership development and promotion paradigm as the AFL-CIO then Barack Obama would never have been elected President. This event is truly the apex of hypocrisy." -- Sylvester Smith, Arkansas State Director, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
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Biden to labor group: We owe you

The Obama administration owes organized labor a lot for its victory in the presidential election, Vice President Biden said Tuesday, and will continue to push for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and other union-backed measures.

"Everybody looks back on the election now and says it was a piece of cake," Biden said during a speech before a conference of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). "But let me tell you: You made it cake."

"We Bidens, we owe you," Biden said of the union's support for his political runs and for his son Beau Biden's run for attorney general in Delaware.

Biden said there is "no way" for the administration to work to restore the middle class without strengthening organized labor.

"That's why we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act," the vice president said. "You know, I think it should be pretty simple. If a union is what you want, then a union is what you should get."

Biden also suggested that as long as the Obama administration has labor's support, the administration will support labor.

"It's simple. Look, I'm taking too much of your time, but here's the deal, folks," Biden told AFSCME conferees. "You know, if we want to achieve our goals, we, the president, and me, this administration, we need to make sure you achieve your goals. It's really that basic."

Labor groups also expressed optimism after religious leaders pushed for EFCA, citing a "moral imperative" for equitable work conditions. The editor of Sojourners Magazine, which puts a Christian perspective on social justice issues, joined an Episcopalian bishop and other religious leaders to push Congress to pass the act, and launch a new website, http://faithforworkplacefairness.org/.

EFCA "continues to lose ground with Senate Democrats because they understand the American people do not support the legislation," Katie Packer of the Workforce Fairness Institute, an anti-EFCA group, responded.
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SEIU's Stern: Take Sestak seriously

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is a serious Senate candidate, Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern tweeted Tuesday.

Stern had met with Sestak yesterday to discuss the Democrat's intentions in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Sestak has been making a lot of noise as of late about challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in the state's 2010 Democratic primary.

Stern tweeted Tuesday morning:
Sestak is serious about Senate race. Doing Senate Finance Roundtable today on health care.

Beyond their traditional influence in Democratic contests, union leaders have made clear that their support for Specter in a primary is still an open question. Specter has said he opposes the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a prized piece of union legislation, even after having switched parties to pursue reelection as a Democrat.

Cross-posted at the Twitter Room.
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Obama lays out plan for autos

In an address from the White House this morning, President Obama laid out guidelines for steering the U.S. auto industry back to health while pledging to keep a watchful eye on taxpayer money.

Arguing that the restructuring plans set forth by GM and Chrysler were prepared in good faith but ertr ultimately insufficient, the president laid out different paths for the two struggling automakers. GM will have 60 days cut drastically cut costs if it wishes to receive billions more in aid.
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Unions Promise to Work with Obama on Card Check

In congratulating him on his inauguration Tuesday, one of the key labor coalitions behind President Barack Obama's victorious campaign last year has promised to work with him on its number one legislative priority: the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

"Our seven unions and six million members will work with the Obama-Biden administration and new Congress to establish a bold agenda to fix our national health care system, invest in green projects and technologies to help create millions of new, good green jobs, and put working families back on the path of prosperity by passing the Employee Free Choice Act," said Anna Burger, chair of Change to Win.

EFCA, often called card-check, should help workers organize into unions much more easily by letting them sign authorization cards instead of holding secret ballot elections to form unions. Business associations have targeted the bill and are lobbying furiously against it. Union officials contend the legislation is necessary because too often employers have intimidated workers from forming unions.

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Clinton Praises Chavez, Obama Calls for Chavez Holiday

Hillary Clinton put out a statement this morning honoring the 81st anniversary of Cesar Chavez's birthday, and hours later Obama went one step further, calling for March 31 to be designated a national holiday in Chavez's honor.

"Under his leadership -- highlighted by nonviolent protest -- thousands of farmers across the country were able to secure improved wages and benefits, humane living and working conditions, and better job security," Clinton said. "Through his lifetime of service, he has paved the way for many, and provided inspiration for countless others."

The United Farm Workers, the union formed under Chavez's leadership in1966, endorsed Clinton for president in January. But it was Obama to call for a national holiday honoring Chavez.
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