Bakers organize against pending card check legislation

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON —As the 111th Congress convened last week, the American Bakers Association has launched an effort in opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as "card check legislation."

The A.B.A. said the bill will be on the congressional leadership’s agenda early in the new Congress, and the association has created a grassroots action Internet web page to facilitate members’ activity in opposition to the legislation.

"E.F.C.A. would allow employees to organize unions by filling out union authorizing cards, otherwise known as ‘card check,’" the A.B.A. said. "This system would require employees to acknowledge in writing their intent for all to see, instead of holding a secret ballot election."

The proposal also stipulates that, once a union is organized, labor and management would have 120 days to negotiate a binding contract after which arbiters from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would present a contract neither labor nor management may negotiate or vote on but must accept for two years, the A.B.A. said.

"We must stop this bill, and a compromise is not acceptable," the bakers said.

While encouraging bakers to write their legislators has been a mainstay of A.B.A. lobbying for decades, the web site will make such communications particularly simple and fast, said Brian Callahan, A.B.A. federal government relations manager.

"By simply typing in your facility zip code, you can instantly send letters in opposition of E.F.C.A. to your senators and congressmen," he said. "Another click will send a letter to your local newspaper’s editorial board opposing E.F.C.A."

Mr. Callahan said the system allows bakers to personalize the sample letters.

The web site is www.americanbakers.org/committee/NotoE.F.C.A..htm.

In addition to the features cited by Mr. Callahan, the web page also offers bakers talking points for discussing the issue with members of Congress:

• E.F.C.A. would remove secret ballot and replace it with an authorization card — "Card Check" elections, where employees sign cards indicating if they want to join or do not want to join a union. Paid union organizers would monitor these elections — rather than federal mediators — possibly influencing the outcome of the election;

• Former union organizers have testified that card check campaigns are a "surprise attack on workers." Gaining an employee’s signature on the card is the only goal, and union organizers will often show up at an employee’s home to pressure them into signing the card.

• E.F.C.A., "Card Check" is a solution in search of a problem. Current National Labor Relations Board secret ballot elections ensure privacy. Elections are typically held within 60 days of filing a petition, and such elections had a success rate of 66.8% in the first half of 2008.

• E.F.C.A. includes an unprecedented requirement imposing contract terms on private, unionized employers through a process of compulsory, binding arbitration.

• If employer and union cannot reach agreement within 90 days, the negotiations would be referred to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for mediation. After 30 days, the dispute will be referred to arbitration, and the results of the federal arbitration board will be binding for two years.

• Under E.F.C.A., no vote or opportunity for negotiation is given to employers or employees for first round contracts; the outcome of the government negotiated arbitration has to be accepted.

• E.F.C.A. departs from seven-decades of precedent and law under the National Labor Relations Act. This provision is an unconstitutional infringement on the right of private employers to freedom of contract.

• Compulsory arbitration discourages the involved parties from offering compromises in bargaining for fear that they may prejudice the arbitration’s outcome.

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