In early June, a small delegation from the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce will head to Washington, D.C., on a mission of great importance to businesses across our region.
Chamber President Dave Garth and several area business leaders will speak to a number of representatives, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein, about the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, which has become a hot-button issue for Congress this year.
For those of you who haven’t read about the EFCA in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, it is anything but a free choice act. Under most versions of the proposed legislation, secret ballot protections would be removed from union organizing elections.
Another proposal would insert binding arbitration into union and company negotiations on labor contracts.
Passage of the EFCA was one of Barack Obama’s campaign promises, and it was particularly important to him in galvanizing union support both in his primary fight against Hillary Clinton and in the fall face-off with Sen. John McCain.
But in the midst of an economic meltdown and no signs of growth in the small business sector, the Obama administration has not pushed the issue as hard as many business interests have feared. That’s partly because it appears the administration does not have the 60 Senate votes needed to override an almost certain filibuster from Republican members of the Senate.
This leaves moderates in Congress and particularly in the Senate. Feinstein, who has expressed reservations about the bill in its original form, and a handful of moderate Democrats have been pressed hard on this issue by both labor and management.
For small to medium-sized businesses that populate the Tri-Counties, the EFCA is a particularly bad piece of legislation. It holds out the potential for creating a poisonous workplace atmosphere for companies that are the subject of organizing campaigns.
And it further holds out the promise of arbitrary rulings imposed on companies without the current due process protections.
In our region, the most likely targets are hotels, larger restaurants and non-union contractors. It goes without saying that amid a down economy, fear of the EFCA is putting a damper on hiring decisions.
The EFCA simply is the wrong bill at the wrong time, and many business organizations, including a number of area chambers, have come out against it.
But we’re singling out the SLO Chamber for its courage in standing up for the owners of small and medium-sized businesses. That’s partly because its membership is about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Some of those members are taking the time to go to the nation’s capitol to have their say. We hope they are successful in their mission.