Three companies — Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Costco — recently rolled out a compromise proposal on the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA’s supporters have met the proposal with derision, because it does not sufficiently stack the deck for union organizers to restore their institutions’ lost political influence.
The three companies’ compromise bill rejects both of EFCA’s most noxious elements — card check (or abolition of the guarantee of a secret ballot) and mandatory arbitration. What it does include is an assurance of greater access for unions to a firm’s employees during a unionization election, and increased penalties for employers who break the rules. Their proposal would be much less harmful than EFCA, but at the same time it unnecessarily concedes the false premise that the reason for unions’ decline is procedural rather than substantive — i.e., fewer workers feel the need to belong to them.
Some will criticize these three companies for catering to their latte liberal customers (at least in the case of Whole Foods and Starbucks) and using this as a public relations exercise to show that they are the good guys. And this may be in part true, but it could have been much worse. There were fears, when this alternative was still under development, that it would include some form of card check.