WASHINGTON — As expected, both the House and Senate introduced versions of the Employee Free Choice Act last week — although it appeared that the measure may stall in the Senate again this year, despite increased Democratic majorities and the support of both President Obama and Vice President Biden.
The measures, which are opposed by many business groups, would make it easier for employees to form unions by eliminating the current “secret ballot” system and replacing it with a voting process by which employees could organize their workplaces by signing cards. The measure passed the House last year and died in the Senate.
Neil Golub, chief executive officer of Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., who is spearheading opposition to the bill on behalf of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, said he believes the Senate does not have the 60 votes required to block a Republican filibuster, although the House version is expected to pass easily. A few Democratic senators also were reported last week to be wavering in their support.
“I could visualize that particular bill being Obama's first flat tire,” Golub told SN.
Pat O'Neill, organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers, Washington, said he was still confident the bill would pass. He also criticized food retailers for opposing the measure.
“The employers that we represent that are staunchly against the Free Choice Act lose all credibility and any moral authority they might have had when they come to the bargaining table and argue against Wal-Mart and other nonunion competition, and want to use negotiations to beat the union up as far as an unlevel playing field,” he said.
Golub said the bill undermines the basic principles of collective bargaining set by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.
“It doesn't level anything,” he said. “This bill stinks.”