NEW YORK — New labor rules under an Obama presidency and a Democratic supermajority in Congress could result in additional grocery chains being unionized within six months, according to a union organizer speaking in a conference call Friday. Patrick O’Neill, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said the Employee Free Choice Act — a measure he said would reduce hindrances to certification by replacing the current process of secret ballot with a process of signed cards or a petition — would “level the playing field — not just between labor and management but between competitors in the industry.”
Speaking at a conference arranged by Citigroup here, O’Neill said previous attempts at the Free Choice Act gained approval by the House of Representatives, but died behind a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. If Democrats gain 60 seats in the U.S. Senate — a number some analysts have said is possible in Tuesday’s elections — the measure could pass. “A supermajority in the Senate is our biggest obstacle right now,” O’Neill said. Sen. Barack Obama, should he win the presidency, has said he would support the bill.
O’Neill said the bill would also impose greater deterrents to “union-busting” but would ultimately benefit retailers by improving the spending capabilities of workers, reducing turnover and improving productivity. He said the UFCW would likely look first at organizing non-union operators that share markets with union shops.
“Our mission is to represent the members we already have and advance their standard of living,” O’Neill said. “One of the ways to do that is to go out and organize the other companies in the industry.”
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