Salena Zito

Does “card-check” have a Plan B?

Yes, according to a group of businesses spearheaded by self-described pro-labor Democrat Lanny Davis.

Davis and the CEOs of Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods, who consider themselves to be progressives, have come up with an alternative to the derailed card-check legislation. Yet offering an alternative that tries to please everyone is not always met with open arms.

Card-check is dead. Although organized labor and business will passionately disagree, the reality is that when Sen. Arlen Specter, R- Pa., jumped off the labor-friendly bandwagon (taking Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., with him), the bill lost its mojo.

Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods, with Davis as their front man, call their effort the “Committee for A Level Playing Field.” Among many things, their proposal retains secret-ballot union elections, essentially taking the “card-check” component out of card-check.

They also propose eliminating binding arbitration and giving employers the right to apply to the National Labor Relations Board to decertify a union.

Labor’s benefits in this compromise come from tougher penalties on businesses for unfair or punitive labor practices, a quicker way to enforce those, and equal access to all employees during non-working hours for campaigning purposes.

AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka’s reaction to the compromise was a blunt “no way.”

“Their proposal is woefully inadequate to protect workers rights. Maybe if someone shows us something that protects workers, but not this,” Trumka said after a rally for miners in Uniontown, Pa.

He said he was still very confident that labor will get the votes needed to pass card-check this year. “I am working on three senators right now whose votes will make this pass,” he said, declining to name the three.

A longtime friend of Specter, the AFL-CIO official said he was very disappointed that “he flip-flopped on the issues.”

Two weeks ago, Specter went from being at least for cloture on the bill to a deafening no, taking labor, business and his declining political career all by surprise.

Trumka isn’t the only big “no” from the labor movement. “Clearly, this so-called compromise was made by CEOs for CEOs … and (is) not something we would support,” said Josh Goldstein, spokesman for American Rights at Work, a pro-labor group.

"It is unfortunate organized labor has said ‘all or nothing,’ ” replied Gene Barr, vice president of governmental affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.