Big labor is trying to turn up the publicity heat on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., this week by staging a two-day fast outside her San Francisco office in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Feinstein will be in Washington meeting with business leaders who oppose EFCA even as the Oakland-based California Labor Federation launches its protest Wednesday, with participants starting a fast at 10 a.m. and ending it Thursday evening; some protestors will stay overnight outside Feinstein’s office at One Post St. in San Francisco.
EFCA would let workers form unions by having a majority of employees sign petition cards stating their intention to organize — often called “card check” — without management requiring that a secret-ballot election be held; such elections would still be an option if the workers want it.
The bill also provides that if an employer and newly formed union can’t agree on a first contract within 90 days, either can ask for help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and if that doesn’t produce a deal within 30 days, the dispute goes to binding arbitration; all time limits can be extended if the parties agree. And the bill would beef up penalties against companies that violate labor laws during organizing campaigns and first-contract bargaining.
The Senator in March backed off her previous support of EFCA, and is currently the only Congressional Democrat from California not on board with the bill. She has floated a sort of compromise in which workers could vote to form unions with mail-in ballots, thus alleviating some lawmakers’ stated concerns about protecting workers’ privacy from labor organizers.
The federation’s schedule says there’ll be a kick-off at noon Wednesday with Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, community leaders and others; a 4:30 p.m. workers’ rally in support of those fasting; and a 9:30 to 11 p.m. candlelight vigil. On Thursday, there’ll be another rally – this one with elected officials and clergy – at noon, and then a prayer circle to end the fast at 6 p.m.
UPDATE @ 1:51 P.M. TUESDAY: California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring just issued a statement on a similar, pro-EFCA rally taking place outside Feinstein’s office in Los Angeles:
“Today, according to the union bosses, ‘workers and community supporters’ will be demonstrating in support of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA), which they claim will ‘help workers earn good wages, healthcare and retirement benefits.’ Unfortunately, it appears our friends have not been reading the news as of late, as unreasonable demands made by Big Labor have forced workers in the auto industry to lose their jobs and mismanagement of their programs have left worker benefit packages terribly underfunded.
“EFCA threatens to have the same affect on the small business community here in California and throughout the nation. By mandating contracts on employers and eliminating workers’ right to a private ballot, union bosses will decimate job creation and severely increase unemployment, slowing any economic recovery on the horizon.”
To clarify, EFCA wouldn’t be “eliminating workers’ right to a private ballot” – it would eliminate management’s right to a private ballot. Workers would still be able to choose a secret-ballot vote if they wish it.