Card check legislation debated via airwaves, whistlestop campaign

Both sides have launched extensive advertising  campaigns in the fight to approve the Employee Fair Choice Act, also known as the Card Check legislation.

 Business is on one side, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launching a $1 million television ad campaign in five states, including Colorado, to oppose the bill, which would change the rules for workers who want to form a union.

Unions are on the other, and have launched their own style of campaign — up close and in person. The AFL-CIOs “On the Road” whistlestop tour ended this week. The group visited Colorado Springs, Boulder, Trinidad, Ludlow, Pueblo, Denver, Idaho Springs, Longmont,  Fort Collins, Greeley and Keenseburg.

The business community says the legislation eliminates workers’ private votes when deciding whether or not to form a union.

U.S. Chamber officials fear its passage would allow the federal government to set wages and working conditions, and impose one-sided penalties on employers. Advertisements have already begun running on local television stations.

“We’ve already been deep in to fighting the Card Check bill,” said David Csintyan, executive director of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. “Our board is opposed to it, and we’ve communicated that to our members.”

He pointed to local companies such as The Broadmoor hotel that have watched hotels and resorts such as The Greenbrier in West Virginia struggle financially because of union wage and hour pressures.

“The title, ‘Employee Free Choice Act,’ is a little misleading. It’s really about your employees no longer having a secret ballot. That’s not free choice,” he said. Csintyan also said that most stakeholders believe the votes to pass such legislation just aren’t there. “Nationally 14 Democrats now say they won’t support it. This bill is not a fait accompli.” 

But unions say the bill is needed: CEOs don’t work without contracts; neither should workers. They also say that more than 60 million workers would form a union “tomorrow” if given the opportunity. As for arguments about the bill that ends secret ballots, the AFL-CIO said that majority sign-up is a “long-standing” way to establish a union.

“Simply put, employers wield considerable strength, and workers must be able to unionize so wage and benefit negotiations occur on a more-even playing field,” said Leo Girard, president of the United Steel Workers. “There’s power in common endeavor. In 1935, in the depth of the Great Depression, the government encouraged workers to use their power to obtain better wages. It did that because better wages to many would help end the depression for all. Just like in 1935, workers now need unions to help them secure better eages, which will, in the end, be good for the country because it will improve the economy.”

 The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate, though recent announcements of opposition by Senators Lincoln and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have left the bill’s future clouded. Colorado Sen. Mark Udall also opposes the bill, while Sen. Michael Bennet is undecided.