We just published a new White Paper called: How to Win (and Prevent) a 5-Day Election: Strategies for Success in a Changed Labor Law Environment
You can read about it and download your own FREE copy of this 15-page report by clicking here.
2009-07-17T07:47:22.572-05:00This morning's New York Times is reporting that key US Senators have reached a compromise with labor unions that will have the 60 votes needed to pass. Read the details here. They anticipate a vote in September. Stay tuned - we will let you know as things develop.
2009-07-12T09:10:53.847-05:00This week President Obama announced that Brian Hayes is his Republican nominee to fill the last remaining open seat on the National Labor Relations Board. Historically the Board appointments get voted on as a "package deal" to make sure the balance is always 3 members in the President's party and 2 from the other party, so Mr. Hayes is the last remaining piece in the puzzle to get a full, five-member panel for the first time in a couple of years.
2009-06-10T17:25:14.345-05:00Do employers really support the Employee Free Choice Act? That's a question I asked over at our other blog. One reader questioned my argument (using some analogy about men recommending birth control pills...) As opposed to trying to explain it all here, just take a look at the comments on my post about employers supporting the Employee Free Choice Act (look especially for my recent study that concludes there should be a gag order against Pittsburgh Penguins fans for their virulent anti-Red Wings campaigns).
2009-05-28T10:27:07.834-05:00The AFL-CIO's Seth Micheals has breaking news in his blog today. It trumpets a new study which concludes that workers "won't face coercion if they sign up for a union."
2009-05-27T12:53:16.465-05:00Just read a post by John Wojcik at People's Weekly World that highlights another of the key reasons that the current labor movement is repugnant to me. Most of the article is a standard diatribe from the Pro-Employee Free Choice Act crowd. However, John writes at the end of his post:
The labor movement, for the last three or more years, has marched, picketed, sat in, demonstrated, petitioned and engaged in major strikes from one end of the country to the other. It mobilized for the 2006 and 2008 elections on all levels, reshaped the face of Capitol Hill, changed the Congress, changed the Senate and was critical in the election of perhaps the most pro-labor administration in U.S. history.
Because of this militancy we are on the verge of seeing serious, major labor law reform in this country.
2009-05-19T12:13:24.634-05:00I'm deeply concerned. I cannot give Big Labor credit for the meanderings that have led to this juncture, but I believe opponents of the mis-named Employee Free Choice Act have stumbled into a trap. If we (all American businesses) are not careful, the jaws of the trap will soon clamp tight around our necks.It seems business interests have done a pretty good job of throwing a wrench in the works of the Big Labor lobby pushing for the EFCA. Many prominent Democrats have been pressured into backing away from the current version of act. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, formed by more than 500 business and conservative organizations, coordinated the effort to fight the card check bill, spending at least $10 million. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on its own earmarked $20 million in 2008 & 2009 to defeat the bill, and spent $35 million in the last election cycle to help business-friendly lawmakers into power.The unions themselves even seem to be at each others throats over the issue, with the head of one union complaining that Andy Stern and the SEIU began to discuss compromise before other unions were consulted.One of the biggest shortfalls of the campaign, though, has been to allow the proponents to set the rhetoric for the debate. The unions have "won the high ground" by creating the impression that they are somehow at a disadvantage when it comes to organizing outcomes. They mis-used phony statistics and ignored actual data from the National Labor Relations Board to paint a picture to the American public that the debate was about equality of opportunity and a "setting right" of something that was broken. The opponents took the bait (yes - I DO give Big Labor and their consultants credit for setting this up - the liberal camp has been far superior to the conservative in using language to frame debate for quite some time!) and began to argue about the undemocratic nature of "card check" without ever refuting that there was a problem in the first place!The truth is that unions last year won about 2/3's of elections held, and most elections were held within about 38 days. Earlier claims that employees speaking on behalf of unions were fired in 25% of organizing campaigns are an outright lie. Problem? There is no problem for unions, other than the fact that Americans increasingly don't want them and thus don't vote for them!Back to the the trap. Businesses have been focused on defeating legislation, and it is a necessary and valient effort. However, in the end, they will lose this battle. The deck is simply stacked too far in the favor of Big Labor proponents. The administration is rife with union-friendly personnel at every level - from administrators and bureacrats right up to the elected representatives, including the president. All Big Labor has to do is come up with a "compromise" that seems not to effect the voting process (as it is suggested will be the case with mail-in ballots), that shortens the election cycle and retains some aspect of forced arbitration, and they will say, "no this doesn't level the playing field, but we'll make due with this." Democrats to were backed to the wall by business leaders in their states will then say, "Hey, American is about fair, and this is a fair compromise to level the field. We kept the secret ballot. Are you trying to be greedy?!"Trap snaps shut. Unions will now have more freedom, including possibly equal access to the workplace to campaign, and stiffer penalties enforced against employers but not unions. Rules are still stacked against business like they are now (unions can "offer" more benefits, businesses can't), and now they have both hands tied behind their backs.Again - I applaud the efforts of business to oppose the legislation. But, they had better brace for the storm. The ground will shift under them. They had better be about the business now of making themselves impervious to[...]
2009-05-14T16:49:15.942-05:00This week we posted a blog item on an interesting study about the Employee Free Choice Act. In it a solid majority of employers (nearly 60%) say they think some form of EFCA will pass this year. This note is to them. The other 40% of company leaders in that survey are smoking crack ... a compromise bill is being negotiated as we speak and will become law this summer. I've been doing a series of strategy calls with companies around the country over the last month. These calls are a blast (if you're interested in doing a Free Choice Act strategy call for your company you can learn more here - until EFCA passes I'm doing them for free). The companies we've talked to range from large, multi-facility organizations who are already doing a lot of the right things to companies that are just learning that EFCA is coming. For the bigger companies we are able to really roll up our sleeves and work on advanced communications strategy. We work on a basic game plan for the smaller companies. But one question comes up in every call, no matter how big and sophisticated the employer: When should I start talking to my employees about EFCA?It's a great question. Most companies are reluctant to bring up EFCA for a variety of reasons. First, many say they think it might give disgruntled employees an idea they hadn't thought of yet (note: this is a terrible reason to avoid the subject - in fact, it is a better reason to be talking about it NOW). Some are afraid to bring it up because they don't want to violate election laws (this is an easy one to avoid - if you remember one simple rule that I talk about during the strategy calls).But the best reason I've heard is the "crying wolf" problem. Since EFCA is a moving target, there is a fear that talking about it now might make an employer look alarmist (especially if you get specific about things like card-check and mandatory arbitration that are unlikely to make it into this year's version of the legislation). This is especially true if you go back a few months later and talk about a different bill. One sophisticated employer I worked with a couple of weeks ago had this exact fear, and I think it's legitimate. However, I do not agree that silence about EFCA is the "cure" for this problem. Instead, I recommend a "middle way" approach.There is a tendency for employers (and consultants) to get caught up in the outrageous provisions of the proposed version of EFCA, like abandoning the secret ballot in virtually all cases and imposing "fast-track" contracts through mandatory arbitration. Focusing on the problems of EFCA diverts attention from what is really important: employees only choose to sign union cards when they believe (or are tricked into believing) that the union card will somehow improve their lives. The direct relationship between management and employees is what is blown up by unionization. This relationship is the key leverage point in any discussion about unions, no matter what version of EFCA eventually gets signed into law.Since it is the direct relationship that is at risk, that is what should be the focus of communications now. The good news is that this discussion really doesn't have to mention unions at all if an employer doesn't feel comfortable bringing up the subject. The key point to communicate is the importance of this direct relationship, the competitive advantages of companies who maintain a direct relationship and, most important, how employees can take advantage of this direct relationship in their daily work life. There are many ways to illustrate and emphasize the benefits of a direct relationship, and right now this should be your main focus.Some companies are more vulnerable to union organizing and are targets right now. For these companies it probably makes sense to talk about unions today, and perhaps to go into specifics about how EFCA proposes to change the way unions organ[...]
2009-05-13T11:05:00.772-05:00This is a very interesting article, based on recent survey of American businesses. The study indicated that 85% of companies are concerned about the impact of the Employee Free Choice Act, and 89% believe EFCA will increase their vulnerability to unions. However, very few are actually doing anything to prepare, even though a full 60% believe that some form of EFCA will pass (I personally think the other 40% have their heads in the ground - see our last several posts for validity for my hypothesis).All would agree that the best defense against union encroachment is an environment in which employees feel that they are appreciated, where their feedback counts, where they feel connected to the growth of the company - what is termed a "positive employee environment." According to the survey, 70% of companies surveyed believe this exists among their employees, but only 35% have ACTUALLY ASKED their employees through proper surveys. We had a phone consultation last week with the HR manager of a fairly large company having over 20 locations spread across a single state. Even though her company is a "family-run" enterprise, she is fearful of her company's susceptibility to union organizing. Her industry is one which has historically not been a target of Big Labor, but has recently been drawn into the crosshairs. Thus, she feels her workforce is naive to the threat, and vulnerable due to the proximity of company locations to other high-profile organizing campaigns recently, and the fact that many spouses and other family and friends are involved in these campaigns.When we discussed what she knew of the employees current feelings about their work environment, she had concerns, yet had only anecdotal examples to verify those concerns or dispel them. When we asked if they had surveyed their employees recently, she responded that upper management "doesn't put much stock in surveys," and they hadn't done one for several years. This is a common response. If it is not understood how to properly use surveys, they can indeed be "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Here are a few tips to consider.1. A survey can uncover opportunities for improving the "positive employee climate" of the company.2. A survey can mark a point in time from which to springboard into ongoing discussion between management and employees. "Remember when we found out X, so we changed our way of doing Y to make this better...? This reinforces the value of a direct relationship between management and employees, and continues to provide pivot points for ongoing conversation.3. A survey can provide a valuable legal defense if an organizing campaign ever occurs. It is an Unfair Labor Practice to implement "new" changes to try to reinforce a positive employee environment once an organizing campaign begins, BUT if those changes can be linked to the ongoing efforts of the company to implement changes unearthed by a survey that occured prior to the campaign, it is a valid strategy and not considered a ULP.4. Lastly, segmentation of survey data is a key. It is important to remember that a certain percentage of your employee population will be loyal no matter what, and another percentage will find something to gripe about no matter what. However, the group that makes all the difference are the ones in the middle - the percentage than can be moved up the chain towards the management side. It is important to identify the issues that are important TO THEM - that is the place to plant the fulcrum from which to lever effective change.Companies that take the proactive step to implement a properly constructed survey process (including questions that reveal third-party intervention factors) will be miles ahead in preparing a proper defense against union encroachment, and their company will benefit from the fruit of the process in more ways th[...]
2009-05-12T10:54:45.666-05:00If you have any questions about how "pay to play" works at the federal level, this short video should answer them! Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, brags that
SEIU is on the field, it's in the whitehouse, it's in the administration...SEIU members and staff are now all throughout the White House.
2009-05-01T14:41:55.889-05:00I hate to sound like Rush Limbaugh and say "I Told You So," but we did! The debate over the Employee Free Choice Act is only a small tip of the iceberg of the radical new environment American companies will face. There are so many additional ways that the Obama administration and Big Labor (working together, obviously) are changing the landscape.
2009-04-28T11:23:39.141-05:00Arlen Specter is expected to announce that he is switching parties according to the Washington Post. Not exactly clear what this means for EFCA (he has already suggested numerous compromises that he supports, but has said he will vote against cloture and against the bill). It does give Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate once Franken is sworn in. Stay posted.
2009-04-28T11:33:38.402-05:00Newt Gingrich recently added his two cents to the Employee Free Choice Act debate, and highlighted the issue we've been warning of as the more insidious: mandatory arbitration. He has this to say:
In the history of this country, government has never proved its capacity or capability to exceed the performance and productivity of those engaged in private enterprise. Why, then, should we trust government to know enough about the nuances and market forces at play in a particular industry to set wages and benefits for workers?
2009-04-07T11:53:22.656-05:00Blanche Lincoln announced yesterday that she will oppose EFCA in its current form - this announcement is a huge blow to unions if they were hoping to get card check this year. She did make clear that she could not support EFCA "in the form it is in now" clearly telegraphing that she might consider compromise legislation later. An AFL-CIO official quoted in the same article read her annoumcement exactly the same way.
2009-04-06T00:57:37.143-05:00In the couple of weeks since Arlen Specter’s blockbuster announcement that he would vote against cloture and (maybe) vote against EFCA, quite a few pundits have claimed the so-called “Free Choice” Act is dead for the near future. I’ve already argued that news of EFCA’s death is greatly exaggerated, but I’d like to point out a couple of observable facts that I think are worth considering as we handicap the future of EFCA.It’s been interesting to observe how unions have responded to Specter’s announcement. Most interesting to me was that there wasn’t much of a response to the initial story at all. That could have been posturing, but to the extent they reacted at all unions mainly focused on the large amount of wiggle room Specter gave himself in his floor speech. Specter later had to clarify that he would never support a version of EFCA that included card-check because many union sources claimed that he would based on his speech and some of the interviews immediately afterward.Actions speak louder than words, and last week unions took the bold action of launching an ad campaign going up on the side of buildings around Washington D.C. (the one I saw was over the Sierra Club headquarters, but there are many others).These building-sized banners feature huge pictures of union members discussing why they support the “Free Choice” Act. These banners are intended to turn up the heat on Congressmen and Senators who might think that Specter’s announcement could let them off the hook on EFCA. Looking at union actions, for the moment at least, it appears that unions believe that EFCA is still a possibility and they remain very much engaged in lobbying for their Act.But there is another, even more interesting behavior to observe: NLRB petition activity is at an all-time low in the first quarter of 2009. Take a look at this:It may be a little hard to read the numbers, but these are the important ones: In the five years prior to 2009, on average there were 738 RC petitions filed in the first quarter (there were 964 total petitions filed on average during the same period). This year unions filed only 483 RC petitions in the first quarter – a massive 35% decline.What could explain this incredible drop in RC petition activity. A number of possibilities come to mind. First, this was a historical election year and it is certainly plausible that unions and their organizers were pre-occupied in January with inauguration-related activities. But one would expect for petitions to pick up in February and March if that were the case.Another explanation could be weather. This was a pretty tough winter, and that could have reduced petition activity (the first quarter is generally lighter in volume than other quarters). But this winter was not dramatically worse than similar first quarters over the last 5 years. Weather can’t possibly account for the 35% slide.The economy has seen its worse decline since World War II, so that could have some bearing on the situation. But typically the worse the economic situation the better it is for unions. If anything one would expect the rapid slide (including the decline in 401(k) plans and massive unemployment) would create historical opportunities for unions to organize. But that’s not happened.The most likely scenario – and the one I think is at play – is that union organizers are waiting for the law to change. We just spoke last week to an organizer recently laid off from a major union. He said that his union was sitting on cards while they wait for Congress to act. His union (which I won’t name to protect him – suffice it to say that it is one of the biggest there is) is that confident that the l[...]
2009-03-31T08:28:49.749-05:00Much has been made regarding a recent Wall street Journal article in which a simple sentence was literally cut in half in an attempt to create a major "A-HAA" moment, with the Journal supposedly admitting that card-check did not eliminate the secret-ballot after all.
"Under the Employee Free Choice Act any union who receives majority support of those workers seeking to be represented by that particular union, will still have the right to file an election with the NLRB to conduct a secret ballot election if it so chooses. However I would agree this would be unlikely if a union does receive a majority support for a number of reasons."
...why would any union take a chance conducting an election with the possibility of losing such an election..."I won't hold my breath waiting to see this quote on Keith or Rachel's show.
2009-03-27T07:43:49.852-05:00In case you missed it, this week unions made the comical move (led by Representative George Miller who put this idiotic claim up on his House Committee website) of taking a phrase out of a Wall Street Journal article out of context and then claiming (in exact opposition to the sentence they quoted out of context) that the Wall Street Journal said that EFCA didn't effectively eliminate the secret ballot election. Read the Wall Street Journal's response - it's pretty good.
2009-03-24T14:29:53.693-05:00Arlen Specter announced today that he would vote against cloture and - sort of goes without saying - is opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act. Even though I am home fighting the flu I can still hear the cheers from here. You can watch his speech here.
2009-03-19T15:38:50.958-05:00Another confirmation of Specter's willingness to move along with the Dems on the Employee Free Choice Act. Even though several Democrat Senators have been making noise like they may shy away from the card check bill, when it comes down to fish or cut bait, politics will rule, the Dems will most likely toe the line, and Specter should be enough to send it over the edge.
A huge story in healthcare (once again tipped by Twitter). SEIU and CNA-NNOC (or whatever they're called today) have announced an organizing partnership. Here's the Tweet:
If you haven't been following this story, these two unions have been in a fight - no, a REAL fight complete with riots - for the last couple of years. Both are great at organizing and the infighting between the two has probably been one of the best arguments against both unions since the battle began. Very important development for health Care employers.
2009-03-18T10:17:00.068-05:00Unbelievable! At a time when any discussion about the government-run retirement system (Social Security) centers around the failure of the government to handle the money properly, the SEIU (Service Employees Union International) wants the government to take over the private pension system! What is it about history that liberals, and Big Labor, can't read? We already have an administration hanging huge milestones of excessive government overspending, never before matched in history, around the necks of our children and grandchildren.
Social networking sites are being used more and more for organizing activity. If you aren't at least following what is going on on these web 2.0 spaces (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.) you are missing a lot. One person you might want to follow? Andy Stern, who had this little "tweet" this morning...
By the way, while you are thinking about people to follow on Twitter you might as well follow us on Twitter too.
This week the EFCA discussion is focusing primarily on whether there is enough support to pass it uncompromised in the 111th Congress. There are fewer co-sponsors this time and some of the key Democratic votes are a little squishy at this (admittedly very early) point in the game.
There are two schools of thought about how this might play out. One is that a compromise version will get voted on soon (one was quietly introduced in the House this week). The other scenario, and the one that I think is more likely, is that unions will want to count noses (and perhaps even force a filibuster) on the full monty before allowing any compromise at all.
The idea behind the latter strategy is this: Unions have spent a hell of a lot of money to buy this piece of legislation and they are looking for a return on that investment. They are also tired of getting left at the altar by their "friends" in Congress. So force a vote on cloture first - putting maximum pressure on moderates on both sides of the aisle - with a clear message that a vote against cloture is a vote for a major primary opponent in your next election. If Republicans filibuster it, so much the better (makes them look obstructionist, not to mention it's kind of tough to say you are protecting the right to vote by preventing a vote on a bill...). Then, if EFCA doesn't have the 60 votes it needs, they get some compromise version of it passed now and then roll up their sleeves for 2010 (if you are wondering which states will see a huge uptick in organizing after it passes just read on...).
What about 2010? Here are the vitals:
36 seats will be up for election, 19 Republican and 17 Democrat. The consensus tossups races are all Republican:
Mel Martinez (FL)
Jim Bunning (KY)
Kit Bond (MO)
Judd Gregg (NH)
George Voinovich (OH)
Specter (PA) is a key vote for unions on EFCA and he is probably in trouble no matter what he does. Specter - who will be 80 in 2010 - will be seeking his sixth term. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and again in 2008 and barely beat Pat Toomey in the 2004 primary (Toomey is probably going to run again in 2010).
So these states will be where all the action is in 2010 (and probably hotbeds for organizing activity in the meantime - you know, growing the grass roots...). We'll obviously be keeping you posted. We'll be posting a status report on the bills in the sidebar of the blog.
2009-03-13T15:34:04.983-05:00This article out of Washington State points to two strategies working against American businesses and workers. Interestingly, the focus of this article is actually on the less alarming of the two.
lobbyists cannot exercise "any undue influence, extortion or unlawful retaliation on any legislator by reason of the legislator's position with respect to or vote upon any pending or proposed legislation.”All of the above is typical union tactics, just your average pay-to-play at work. The more sinister component that is almost overlooked by the article is the nature of the bill being proposed. The bill is called the “Worker Privacy Act,” (Senate Bill 5446, and House Bill 1528), and the bill
would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to attend a meeting, or listen to, respond to, or participate in any communication relating to political, labor or religious matters. This would include talks about unions and charitable giving.Whoa! Another blatant attempt to curtail free speech rights, couched in the politically correct jargon of “Worker Privacy.” And, another sly move by Big Labor to tighten the noose on American businesses, taking the fight to the state level in case the Employee Free Choice Act flounders on the national stage, or is compromised to lose some of it’s teeth.
2009-03-12T15:20:31.525-05:00Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas seems to be connecting the dots in the brouhaha over the Employee Free Choice Act, along with a few others. Let's follow Senator Lincolns plausible stream of thought: the largest employer in Arkansas is...WalMart. Analysts at Citigroup in New York downgraded their WalMart recommendation to a hold instead of a buy because...passage of the EFCA could force increased labor costs and limit expansion. I want to be seen on the side of the Employee Free Choice Act because...I'm for loss of jobs for my constituency???
“Right now, my number one priority is strengthening our state’s economy and putting 90,000 jobless Arkansans back to work,” Lincoln said in a statement.Even if reason doesn't seem to prevail, if opponents of this horrible legislation can focus the energies of some of the larger business interests at other Democratic Senators, the bill may yet be defeated, at least in it's most egregious form.