A bit of good news, at least from the perspective of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), was released last week: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), has agreed to drop the card check portion of the Employee Free Choice Act. The card check provision would have allowed workers in businesses with 20 or more employees to vote for unionization by a show of hands rather than a secret balloting process.
Proponents of the bill had said that the secret ballot process gives businesses time to intimidate and influence employees to vote against unionization, whereas a show of hands would allow employees a way to quickly unionize. Critics of the bill, including the NRA, said card check gave unions undue influence over employees by forcing them to vote in a public forum where dissent could be limited.
The fight over the Employee Free Choice Act is far from over. The bill still shortens the amount of time for deliberation over unionization and would require disputes to go to binding arbitration. The NRA strongly opposes both provisions, which they say is ant-business.
There is no doubt that unions bring better compensation and benefits to workers. There is also no doubt that unions raise the operating expenses of any business or industry they touch, and as we have seen in the auto industry, sometimes those expenses become crippling.
The NRA has framed their opposition to this bill in the context of protecting the rights of workers. Interestingly, so have the proponents of the bill. What it really boils down to is money. Restaurant owners, understandably, don’t want and certainly can’t afford additional expenses in this economic climate. Unions, starving for membership in new industries, need a big dose of dues to help them back to political prominence.
Caught in the middle of this tug-of-war are the people of the food service industry. I haven’t really heard what they think about unionizing their restaurants. Do they think it’s worth it to pay union dues? Would they rather see restaurant owners pass the profits of reduced operating expenses on to them?
If you’re in the food service industry, weigh in on this issue! Leave a comment below. Thanks!