Big Retailers Unveil Card Check Alternative

Posted March 22, 2009 at 11:38am

A coalition of major national retailers on Sunday formally unveiled an alternative proposal to controversial “card check— legislation, a priority for organized labor groups that faces uncertain prospects in the midst of a massive lobbying blitz by the business community.

The Committee for a Level Playing Field for Union Elections, the group of retailing giants that unveiled the alternative proposal, includes Whole Foods Market Inc., Starbucks Coffee Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp., and it is spearheaded by former Clinton White House attorney Lanny Davis. The group is pitching lawmakers to take up its “third way— approach to the recently introduced Employee Free Choice Act.

The plan, which has not been formally endorsed by Members or the White House, would “guarantee the right of management and unions to require a secret ballot under all circumstances,— an apparent attempt to respond to the highly effective marketing pitch by business groups that the card check bill is un-American. The issue was a major Republican talking point last year in competitive Senate races in states such as Minnesota and North Carolina where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others spent millions of dollars bashing card check in television advertising.

In a conference call on Sunday, Davis said the group was not planning an advertising campaign of its own to sway public opinion but would not rule it out in the future. So far, Davis said his group has approached two dozen offices in the Senate — where the legislation’s fate hangs in the balance — but not President Barack Obama.

“This is not about a lot of people lobbying,— Davis said.

Glenn Spencer, a chamber spokesman, said there “are some interesting items— in Davis’ plan but the group is reserving final judgment until legislation emerges — and the current card check bill is withdrawn.

“The path to any compromise starts with killing off the ideas behind EFCA and taking the bill off the table and out of discussion,— Spencer said.

The chamber, which has been running anti-card check ads on the radio and in newspapers since January, is expected to begin another round of television spots next month.