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?

Please, weigh in on this issue! Leave a comment below. Thanks!

Tags: card, check, food, industry, service, unionization, unions

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Simple thought... Each unskilled employee in my restaurant just got a raise today. I agree that each of us has the right to earn a living, but not at the expense of everyone around them.

My father was an immigrant to this country in 1955. He worked hard to earn a living and pass that living on to me. We made it growing up because of his work ethic. I like to think that I share that work ethic today (thanks Dad).

We're becoming a society that carries a sense of entitlement and it's costing us...as restaurantuers and as a country (sorry for the political rant). Entitlement is a vicious cycle that is hard to break, very hard to break; who doesn't like something for nothing. We'll all be passing those costs on to the consumer somewhere so really who wins? You make more, but everything costs more.

The unions have their place, but they're a business too. Don't miss that point, unions are a business, just like mine and yours. Their struggling to make it in this economy also. However, let the free market economy dictate weather they survive or not. We cannot let our elected officials (don't miss that one either, they are our ELECTED officials, and work for us) push this upon us. If there is a need for a union, then it will happen; weather we like it or not, the market will make it happen. Sagging revenue, er...I mean "dues" is no reason to tax my business so that someone I oppose politically can remain in office in the name of "doing good for the common man". Thank you, but no thanks.

Bottom line, if you're hurting financially (and who isn't), don't expect a raise because you work for someone, expect a better living because you've worked your ass off and deserve it!
Thanks for the comments Tony. I think a lot of people will agree with you. And I agree, as I said above, that unions are pushing this because of sagging dues revenue.

But what do you think about the charge that businesses actively inhibit unionization because the current process takes so long that employees become intimidated to vote for unions?

I'm not saying I agree with that charge, I just want to know if people think it's a valid argument. I know Wal-Mart and other big companies have definitely intimidated pro-union employees in the past. What do you think?
Intimidation by any employer is a serious charge and if it's happening, should not be tollerated. I don't believe it happens on a regular basis, but I am not naive either. I am sure there are instances where it happens and again, should not be tolerated.

So, I think there is a valid argument from time to time, but all to often, people hide behind it as they don't want to take a good hard look in the mirror. Chances are, they're doing something wrong or feel entitled when really they're not.

However, if the charge is made...how do you prove it? The burden of proof is on the plaintiff and if the employer is dilligent about documentation, it would be a tough case to win.
Card check is a scary proposition as it undermines the protocol created by the National Labor Relations Board and unions over the past 40-60 years. The latter process is familiar and the players know the "rules".

As Card Check is currently worded, the process of unionization becomes a free-for-all with very few checks and balances for either camps.

While the politicos of union and NRA reps offer news sound bites, most restaurant employees and their owners do not have a clue what Card Check really is or the detailed ramifications it holds.

Unfortunately, most operators and their staff are so distracted with the depressed restaurant industry and trying to survive that they just don't have the emotional space to give Card Check a closer look.

I agree with that point Paul. No one in food service really knows what Card Check is nor do they have the time to learn about it. Which is completely understandable.

I personally get a little annoyed at the NRA for distributing talking points that I find deliberately misleading though. I'm not saying I want Card Check, I just want an honest and straightforward debate about it.





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