Boycot them today!
December 29, 2009, 11:16 AM EST
Published by BusinessWeek
By Holly Rosenkrantz
Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Target Corp. retooled a training video to warn workers against a bill that would make union organizing easier. Michaels Stores Inc. told investors “our businesses could be impacted” by the measure. Enrollment in Jackson Lewis LLP’s “How to Stay Union-Free” seminars tripled.
Companies are rallying to fend off a so-called card-check law sought by labor leaders and backed by President Barack Obama. While the bill stalled in Congress this year as health- care legislation dominated debate, anti-union groups say they expect the president and Democrats to deliver next year on a compromise version of the legislation.
“As we approach the 2010 elections, the unions are really going to want their pound of flesh,” said Randy Johnson, who handles labor issues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group. “Even if we defeat the card-check bill, it’s entirely possible that other changes to the National Labor Relations Act will come up, and some of those will likely make it easier to organize the workplace.”
Companies have added anti-union videos to training programs, required employees to sit through anti-union meetings and hired outside labor-relations consultants as a pre-emptive strike against a union organizing campaign.
“The whole culture that currently allows us to be a low- cost producer while paying top wages would probably be destroyed” by the legislation, Craig Milum, president of Milum Textile Services, a Phoenix-based linen supplier, said in an interview.
Paying Weekly Dues
“You may be paying weekly dues for something you don’t want” if the union-organizing measure passes, the company says in an anti-union video introduced in September for its 45,000 employees. Among customers of closely held Milum Textile are Darden Restaurants Inc., Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and Waste Management Inc., according to Craig Milum.
Leaders of unions that spent a record $450 million electing Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008 had promised members that the legislation easing organizing would be passed in 2009. Andy Stern, president of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union, said in an interview this month that he now expects Congress to take up the bill in the first quarter of 2010. Stern was the most frequent visitor to the White House during Obama’s first six months in office, according to a log released by the administration in October.
The Washington-based Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations have poured millions of dollars into efforts to kill the legislation.
Dropping Namesake Provision
To get enough votes in Congress, supporters of the card- check bill have agreed to drop the provision that gave the measure its name: a requirement that companies grant union recognition as soon as a majority of employees at a workplace sign cards saying they want a union.
A compromise version backed by labor leaders calls for a secret-ballot election a week or two after workers petition for a union. The bill also calls for binding arbitration if companies fail to reach a contract with a new union after a certain period of time.
Minneapolis-based Target, the second-biggest U.S. discount retailer, updated its anti-union video for employee training to explain the consequences of the bill, company spokeswoman Donna Egan said in an e-mailed statement.
“If proposed labor relations legislation is adopted, allowing third-party involvement or interruptions to our business, our business could be impacted,” Michaels Stores of Irving, Texas, the world’s largest arts-and-crafts retailer, said in its earnings filing this month.
Research on Unions
Registration for Jackson Lewis’s $595 “How to Stay Union- Free” seminars has increased to about 100 executives a session, according to Michael Lotito, a partner in San Francisco with the New York-based law firm. Jackson Lewis also has done research for companies on unions that could come to their workplaces if there is a change in labor law.
“We look at their financial reports, strike records, and what the leadership of the organization is all about,” Lotito said.
Exploiting business fears of card-check has become a profitable pursuit, said Pat O’Neill, organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Read more here from BusinessWeek.