Seeks to Defeat Bill on Unions
By Jeanne Cummings
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Business interests are bracing for their first
clash with the Democratic Congress, raising millions of
dollars to defeat a proposal to ease labor-organizing
A House committee is set to begin work today on the Employee
Free Choice Act, which would give greater legal protection
for union organizers and would let workers choose to
organize simply by signing pro-union cards rather than
holding a federally supervised election.
Labor leaders made enactment of such a law a priority, after
spending heavily in last year's elections to help their
Democratic allies win control of Congress.
The AFL-CIO and other labor groups say that having the
ability to organize workers through a card-signing process
will help them to stem the multidecade decline in union
representation. The percentage of wage and salaried workers
in unions last year was 12%, compared with 20% in 1983. More
union members may translate into greater political influence
and clout at the bargaining table.
Lining up against the bill is the Coalition for a Democratic
Workplace, including trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce as well as retailers and the National Federation
of Independent Business. The group plans to run television
ads in several states and House districts, targeting
Democrats and Republicans.
"We will make sure that there is some pain associated with
voting for this," said coalition spokesman Todd Harris.
Their efforts parallel those of the Center for Union Facts,
which also is rallying companies to oppose the law and spent
between $2 million and $3 million last year on television
and other ads against it.
Business leaders say the law could allow unions to organize
all or a portion of a company's work force before management
became aware of the campaign.
Small franchise owners "could wake up one day, and they'd be
organized. This is so efficient for unions, it makes it
possible to organize on a very small scale," said David
French of the International Franchise Association.
Labor leaders say a federally supervised organizing election
remains an option if one-third of the workers want it. The
use of organizing cards is important, they say, because
union advocates and workers have faced retaliation in some
workplaces as balloting approaches.
Supporters say they can get the bill through the House,
where it has bipartisan support, but business groups hope to
gain ground in the more narrowly divided Senate,
particularly among Republicans who could try to block it
with a filibuster.
That is where both sides expect a showdown. The business
community "realizes that they have the advantage right now
in terms of how the law is implemented," said AFL-CIO
President John Sweeney.
Even if the bill fails, labor leaders want recorded votes in
both chambers so they have a record for the 2008 elections.
--Kris Maher contributed to this article.
Write to Jeanne Cummings at