Joe the Plumber outed on EFCA

Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act are attempting to fool both elected officials and the media into thinking that there’s a grassroots movement against the bill. Fearful of the continually growing movement for labor law reform, they have even floated the idea that there might be a “third way” to achieve that goal.

The anti-labor forces have run into a bit of a problem, however – workers and their representatives in the labor movement keep proving that the only real source of opposition to the bill comes from big business, not the grass roots, and that the “third way” is no way at all.

The March 29 Washington Post went for the right-wing bait when it reported, “With prospects for a landmark union proposal looking increasingly shaky in Congress, senators in both parties are seeking other ways to reform labor laws, potentially reshaping what many expected to be a defining showdown of Barack Obama’s presidency.”

The article said employee free choice had been dealt “two blows” last week, the first of which was a proposed “third way” to reform labor law embodied in a plan put forward by Whole Foods, Costco and Starbucks.

In reality, the retailers’ plan went over like a lead balloon, getting almost no meaningful support from anyone. Labor rejects it because it leaves in place the right of employers to decide whether a union is formed by card check or by an election and because it allows companies to stall negotiations once workers have voted for representation.

Robert Bruno, a labor relations professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the reform proposed by the retailers would not work. “It is unrealistic,” he said, “to create neutral, civic-style elections in workplaces dominated by employers. Employers would have to agree to an environment where they give up a lot of control, a lot of prerogative.”

Businesses rejected the retailer “compromise” because it strengthens some of the penalties against them if they violate labor law, it gives employers a little less time to exert their pressure on workers by fixing the dates for the “free elections,” and it allows unions limited access to workers at the job site.

“Even more damaging,” to the movement for employee free choice, however, according to the Washington Post article, “was the announcement by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) that he would reverse his support for the bill.

“Specter is only one senator,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America. “There are 100 senators.”

There was no grassroots opposition movement bubbling up in Pennsylvania when Specter made his switch. Specter has told labor lobbyists that he has been under incredible pressure from the National Association of manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to switch. He is also worried about a right wing challenge in the coming Republican primaries.

Cohen says that the growing campaign of support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which was not mentioned in the Washington Post article, has caused “panic” among the corporate fat cats. “They know today’s labor laws are badly tilted in favor of management and against workers, and they’re terrified the Employee Free Choice Act could put things back into balance.”

Recent remarks by corporate opponents of employee free choice seem to support this analysis. Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson said recently that “there are two fundamental threats to society, radical Islam and the Employee Free Choice Act.” Fox News pundit John Rutledge called the bill to restore freedom to form a union “a Gestapo tactic,” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it’s “a mortal threat to American freedom.”

The major media fails to report, also, on the growing breadth of the movement for employee free choice. Over the past week, the AFL-CIO reports, union members have made more than 4,000 calls and sent more than 8,000 letters to members of Congress.

In Colorado, Rep. Betsy Markey met with members of the Postal Workers last week to explain why she, as a member of Congress and a former business owner has signed on as a co-sponsor. “You know, I come to union meetings like this on Saturday mornings and it’s men and women who are working hard, a lot of times you see kids there. They’re working for not just themselves but for their families and their kids. We need to maintain a strong middle class, which we are losing quickly. And I’ve told my friends at the Chamber of Commerce, ‘I’m going to be straight with you. Yes, I support the Employee Free Choice Act, it’s the right thing to do, you ought to as well.’”

Wherever possible, workers are refusing to allow the right wing campaigns against the bill to make headway. They succeeded this week in driving Joe the Plumber, who was hired by “Americans for Prosperity” to campaign against the bill, out of the state of Pennsylvania.

When Joe Wurzelbacher went to Pittsburgh, he was confronted by more than 100 union members, and by the time he arrived in Harrisburg, more than 200 union members came out to protest his appearance and show their support for the Employee Free Choice Act. He admitted to the union workers that he hadn’t read the bill, Wurzelbacher ended his tour and left the state without even showing up for his last scheduled appearance.