The Valley Industry and Commerce Association joined a contentious fight in Washington last week against legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize. The twenty-one member VICA delegation traveled to Washington on June 1, joining over 150 California business representatives in a lobbying effort against The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would allow workers to form a union if a majority of employees sign cards to indicate they want one. It would also create a system of mandatory arbitration if a collective bargaining agreement is not reached approximately 120 days after a union is newly certified. The legislation is before Congress as Senate Bill 560 and in the House of Representatives as HR 1409. VICA and the business community opposition view the initiative as a “boot in the throat” of business owners already struggling with the economic downturn. “At the end of the day, this could probably put a lot of businesses out of business,” said Stuart Waldman, President of VICA. “Businesses are cutting costs and having to let people go just to survive, and if they were forced to increase benefits and pay for their employees, it would certainly cause a lot of problems.” Labor unions and those who support the bills, however, argue that giving workers the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively is key to turning the economy around. Union members are 53 percent more likely to have job-provided healthcare, nearly three times more likely to have guaranteed pensions and earn 28 percent more than non-union workers, according to figures provided by the AFL-CIO. Backers of the bill, which include President Barack Obama, also claim the current system for forming unions is broken, putting employees on an uneven playing field when it comes to bargaining. Employers, they say, routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers who are trying to organize a union. No secret ballot But those against the legislation say the new system would lend itself to intimidation and coercion by union organizers by eliminating voting by secret ballot. Under current law, employers can choose to mandate that union organization take place via a secret ballot and then an election. The new system would eliminate the secret ballot, replacing it with the card check system that takes place in the open. “This would put unions in a position to intimidate workers into organizing, and if you create a situation where organizing becomes much more assured, then it’s going to result in more costs to businesses at a time when businesses can least afford them,” said VICA Chair Greg Lippe. The VICA delegation, which joined several hundred people brought together by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in opposition to the legislation, were scheduled to meet with members of Congress including Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Representatives Grace Napolitano, Joe Baca, Henry Waxman and Brad Sherman.
VICA Joins Fight Against “Card-Check” Legislation