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Employee Act Would Harm Industry

August 31st, 2009

Special To The Tampa Tribune

A small group of Senate Democrats has expressed a willingness to drop what may be the most contentious piece of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA): the “card-check” provision that would take away American workers’ right to a private ballot when determining whether to form a union.

While we applaud their newly found clarity on the issue, it does not make this bill any less dangerous for American businesses and American workers.

As hoteliers whose business is hospitality, we know that employee job satisfaction is key to making our guests feel welcome. We respect and support our employees’ right to determine for themselves whether they want to be represented by a union through a fair and free election process.

EFCA – with or without the card-check provision – would fundamentally change that, and in the process, change the way we do business. It would have the unintended consequence of damaging our ability to compete and therefore would put in jeopardy the jobs that EFCA purports to protect.

EFCA’s mandatory first-contract arbitration provision is unrealistic, vague and unfair. Employees are required to make perilously quick decisions on unionization; the voice of the employer is deliberately stifled; and government takes center stage in contract talks.

Especially in these tough economic times, we simply cannot afford to have a government-appointed arbitrator unfamiliar with our business strategy intrude in – and make final decisions about – the terms of labor agreements. The process strips employer and employee alike of a say in a contract that will define every aspect of their relationship.

Some have suggested as an alternative to the “card-check” provision that the union be permitted to hold a vote within five to 10 days of receiving 30 percent of signed organizing cards. Under this scenario, the unions would have unlimited time to lobby employees behind the scenes while employers would have only five to 10 days to present their side. Employees would be forced to make a decision with significant long-range consequences without the time necessary to weigh both sides.

Fairness dictates that employers and unions have equal time to present their case and that employees are given adequate time to review their options.

Another alternative to “card check” being discussed would allow organizers to lobby at the worksite during work hours to solicit support. Particularly for hospitality industries, including hotels and restaurants, this would severely hamper our ability to serve guests.

The negative financial impact of EFCA – and the alternatives we have discussed – on the travel, tourism and hospitality industries would be extreme. In fact, there is perhaps no single legislative agenda item with greater implications for our financial future.

Travel and tourism is a $740 billion industry in the United States, with more than 7.5 million people employed in travel or travel-related professions. According to the U.S. Travel Association, business travel alone creates 2.4 million American jobs, $240 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue. Taking a bite out of such a large apple is a troubling strategy at a time when our national pantry is not particularly well stocked.