West Michigan Groups Organizing to Oppose Employee Free Choice Act

A Variety of Groups--including West Michigan's Largest Newspaper--are Opposing the Employee Free Choice Act

In the past few weeks, we’ve published a few articles on the Employee Free Choice Act, a labor law being pursued by unions and many progressives in the new Congress. The measure would make it easier to form unions by eliminating advantages that employers currently hold.

Last week, we reported that the Michigan Senate passed a resolution expressing opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. While the resolution doesn’t hold any weight and has no real influence on the federal legislature, it is indicative of the kind of opposition that the Employee Free Choice Act faces. In Michigan (former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis just got a job for one) and across the United States business groups are organizing to oppose the bill. Unions are often portrayed as bullies trying to push this legislation, but there are just as many businesses and business groups opposing the legislation–many of which have considerable financial resources.

This opposition is also alive and well in West Michigan. Here’s a few of the groups that we might hear from in the coming months as the legislation moves forward in Congress:

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

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The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce–a business group that represents the interests of employers–has made opposing the Employee Free Choice a priority in 2009-2010. It writes:

“Oppose legislation that would deny employees secret ballot elections in the union selection process, eliminate current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforcement provisions, and implement mandatory interest arbitration for collective bargaining agreements.

Support the rights of workers to cast their vote in private, removed from coercion from either unions or employers.”

However, under current law, employers are able to run aggressive anti-union campaigns, of which 92% do. In addition, unlike current law, the Employee Free Choice Act would give workers forming a union the choice to use a “secret ballot.” It does not eliminate that option.

Somehow, it also seems unlikely that the Chamber of Commerce is really going to care too much about employers coercing their workers. They are after all the same group that opposes an increase in the minimum wage, living wages, and other such measures.

West Michigan Works

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West Michigan Works is a Holland/Zeeland area coalition of employers and community leaders. It promotes the idea that West Michigan is home to a unique “Employee/Employer Relationship” that flourishes through a “special bond.” Apparently, this means opposing the expanded access to unions via the Employee Free Choice Act and unions in general. In The Grand Rapids Press, West Michigan Works was recently described as “a group of business owners allied against unions.” It formed in 2003 to oppose efforts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to organize in the Holland area.

With regard to the Employee Free Choice Act, the group has recently been cited in The Grand Rapids Press and the West Michigan Business Review and has also run a full-page ad opposing the agreement in the Holland Sentinel.

Interestingly, the group sponsors a Labor Day parade in Holland. The day is traditionally a celebration of the power of organized labor.

The Grand Rapids Press

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The largest newspaper in West Michigan, The Grand Rapids Press has editorialized three times since 2007 against the Employee Free Choice Act. Most recently, it opposed the agreement on its editorial page a few days before running a story about the upcoming debate. This was the only story that The Grand Rapids Press has written on the Employee Free Choice Act. Back in 2006, it ran two stories from other news services on the Act.

Aside from its own editorializing, The Grand Rapids Press has run two pieces by syndicated conservative columnists opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. It has published one column supportive of the Act.

In its editorial congratulating Obama’s victory, The Grand Rapids Press warned against passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Michigan Chamber of Commerce

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Like the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has made opposing the Employee Free Choice Act a priority:

“Retaining the right to a secret ballot election in the choice of union representation and current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforcement provisions, while opposing the implementation of mandatory arbitration of collective bargaining agreements.”

As we noted above, the Employee Free Choice Act keeps the secret ballot.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy

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This influential rightwing think-tank is–as would be expected–against the Employee Free Choice Act. It argues the fairly standard talking point that the Act would eliminate the secret ballot and pave the way for union organizers to intimidate workers. It is silent on the current anti-union intimidation efforts undertaken by employers.

Lakeshore Union Free

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I’m not entirely sure who is involved in this organization–I first found out about it because ads for its website were purchased through Google Ad Words. The website is registered anonymously and there is no information as to who runs it on the site. They describe themselves as the “concerned of the community” and “people from all around the West Michigan lakeshore area.” The website aggressively criticizes unions, arguing that:

“Their historical purpose to protect workers from unfair labor practices no longer seems necessary as most employers, particularly in West Michigan, offer good wages, benefits and a healthy working environment.”

Not surprisingly, they are strongly against the Employee Free Choice Act. The group links to a variety of anti-union websites and organizations, including the Center for Union Facts.

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Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org