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In what is a tactical shift in the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act, the labor community is going after business, claiming that they have a hypocritical stance on arbitration when it comes to worker-related disputes.
In a print ad running in major congressional newspapers on Thursday, the group, American Rights at Work, points out that arbitration is a favorite tool of business groups when it comes to resolving, among other disputes, real estate transactions, personal injury claims, and health insurance disputes. The same does not hold true when the matter involves agreeing to a contract with a union, notes the ad.
The spot, appearing in Politico, CQ, Roll Call, and The Hill, ignores what has been, to this point, the main fault line in the EFCA debate: Whether or not employees should be allowed to form a union using a card-check election.
"It's pretty ironic since business loves to use arbitration all the time," said a union official who provided an early look at the new ad to the Huffington Post. "They just don't want workers to have the same rights."
Under the Employee Free Choice Act, stricter rules would be applied to the process after which workers have voted to form a union. In particular, if an employer and the voted-upon union are unable to reach agreement on a contract after 90 days, either one of the parties has the power to refer the matter to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) for mediation.
In addition to the new ad, ARW is also sending allies and members of Congress a fact sheet, noting that business often use "stall tactics" to prevent signing a union contract.
"In fact, one year after a successful union election, 52 percent of workers' unions still did not have a contract," the document reads. "Arbitration will give companies an incentive to negotiate in good faith and ensure that workers who have chosen to join a union actually get a contract."
In private, union officials suggest that they would be comfortable, at this juncture, with a version of the Employee Free Choice Act that does not contains provisions for card-check elections but maintains the tougher rules on arbitration. In this vein, the Wednesday ad could be considered a line in the sand, of sorts, from the labor community.