Diary

Hotels worried about Obama and the Employee Free Choice Act

Those of us that are regular readers here are aware of the perils should the Employee Free Choice Act, aka ‘card check’, be passed and made law. But it’s not just us; businesses are taking note as well. In the Feb. 7 issue of Hotel Business, there’s a front-page article titled “Fate of hotel paradigm may rest with Obama“:

WASHINGTON — The labor union-supported Employee Free Choice Act–which if passed would facilitate the hotel unionization process and allegedly increase hotel owner expenses–has been circulating for some time now on the periphery of the lodging industry as a threat that has thus far failed to reach its potential. The American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AH&LA) efforts to decry the bill’s ultimate purposes combined with not enough votes in the U.S. Senate and a threat of veto by former President George W. Bush have seen to that fact.
But with the inauguration of new President Barack Obama and a new Congress taking session, the threat of the Employee Free Choice Act has emerged once more and in more foreboding form considering prior to his election Obama stated, according to published reports, that he will sign the act into law if Congress passed it. Furthermore, there are Democratic Party majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The last time the bill went before Congress, the House approved it and the Senate failed to pass it by a slim margin.

All typos mine. The article goes on to quote Marlene Colucci, the AH&LA’s executive vp of public policy:

“Legislatively, it’s been interesting to see the transition from the last Congress to this Congress. And one thing you saw during President Obama’s campaign was this bill would be one of the first things out of the shoot and Obama would sign it. But since then we’ve visibly seen it slow down and we’ve seen a statement from President Obama saying, ‘We really need to focus on the economy first because if we don’t have jobs you can’t unionize them.’ Also, I think the result of the campaign against this issue is making it so toxic, no one is anxious to take it up. The new administration sees this as a real poison pill for them, as they want to focus more on bringing people together and the tough economy. This issue hamstrings employer and employee relationships and hurts the economy. There’s a study coming out that will show the impact it has on jobs. You’re also seeing what happened with the auto industry and the affect heavy unionization has had on that industry and the ability to negotiate. Not many are anxious to copy that model. We’re not pro-union or anti-union. But the National Labor Relations Act was created so there are balanced rights for employers, employees and unions. Employees need to have an opportunity to vote via secret ballot whether they want a union.”

The article goes on to quote from hotel labor union UNITE HERE, which says the usual pro-union drivel that I’m not going to bother typing in. Then it goes on to further quote from Colucci on why it may not be so easy for unions to get the act passed:

“In effect, members of Congress were getting a free vote before because they knew it would not be signed by President Bush. This time around it’s not a free vote. All the pressure now will go on the Senate, which is more of a deliberative body and has seen a lot of change. A lot of Democrats from the South are more convertible on the issue. Both Democrats from Arkansas may be having second thoughts. Republican Senator Arlen Specter voted for it last time and now there’s pressure on him. But if it gets to President Obama, he’ll be between a rock and a hard place. But I don’t think it will get that far. His advisors will try to make sure the Senate never gets it to him.”

She goes on further to observe that she expects the bill to be moved quickly to the House floor, because its supporters don’t want attention drawn to it as it would if it went through the normal committee process. The article goes on to point out that the binding arbitration part of the bill is even worse, since it removes all incentives for a union to compromise. The final statement is from Ed Noonan, a labor expert:

“I still hope it won’t pass or pass in its current form. It would be disastrous for the country. And hotels would be particular targets because the union organizing activity will concentrate on industries that can’t relocate. The fear is if legislation works the way the unions want it to work, many companies will leave the country. A hotel can’t simply leave.”

What can we take from this? Many businesses are just as worried about the EFCA as we are, and are quietly mobilizing against it. With luck they and we will succeed in blocking this giveaway to the unions by the Democrats.