Workers could join unions more easily

Janet Babin Mar 24, 2009
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Workers could join unions more easily

Janet Babin Mar 24, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: There’s a bill before Congress that would make it easier for workers to join unions. The Employee Free Choice Act would let unions sign up workers and bypass the current system of secret balloting. Most businesses oppose this bill, but a compromise might be on the way, and it’s spearheaded by three major retailers. Marketplace’s Janet Babin has more from North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: The compromise comes from Starbucks, Whole Foods and Costco. It would eliminate two key provisions of The Employee Free Choice Act. First, it would still require secret elections to create a union. And there would be no binding arbitration during contract disputes. Most unions have snubbed this new alternative.

Mary Beth Maxwell is with American Rights at Work:

Mary Beth Maxwell: This proposal is no compromise, it does not fix fundamental problems.

Most business leaders are limp on the proposal, too. They don’t like that it would set a specific time frame for union elections, and that it would impose stricter penalties for businesses that violate labor laws. Organizers say all this opposition is a sign of true compromise.

Eileen O’Connor’s an attorney who represents Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods:

Eileen O’Connor: It isn’t really surprising that both sides are attacking it. But what we’d like to do is open a dialogue, instead of the polarizing debate that’s been going on.

Business leaders don’t think Congress has the votes to pass the bill. But with President Obama’s support, unions may have the wind at their back here. That could be why they’re reluctant to cede any ground, and why the three retailers scrambled to come up with a Plan B.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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