Small Step, Big Advance on Labor Law Reform

David Madland offers analysis of Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods' new principles and explains why it could offer an opening for real labor reform.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

Sunday’s announcement by Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods that they are supporting an alternative to the Employee Free Choice Act is a small step that could lead to a big advance for labor law reform. The proposal from the three companies does not ensure that workers will be able to exercise their rights to join a union and is not in any sense a real “compromise,” but it is still good news.

The six elements that the companies lay out for a “level playing field for union elections” are a big deal because they tacitly acknowledge that the current union election process allows employers to prevent workers from freely deciding whether or not to join a union and thus needs to be reformed—something too few businesses have been willing to acknowledge.

And perhaps most importantly, the announcement indicates that at least some of the Employee Free Choice Act’s opponents sense that the bill is gaining traction and mere opposition will not be effective. These big name retailers’ concession that the process for establishing unions needs reform also highlights how unrealistic the hardcore opposition to labor law reform really is. The announcement could even make some hesitant elected officials more comfortable with voting for true labor law reform.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project