WASHINGTON — In response to the U.S. House and Senate introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act, a leading processor, several industry associations and one allied-industry association have voiced strong opposition to the proposed bill.

"We, like others in the business community, oppose the Employee Free Choice Act," Gary Mickelson, spokesman for Tyson Foods, told MEATPOULTRY.com. "We believe the right to a private ballot is critical to ensuring the true feelings of our workers are reflected when decisions are made about representation by third parties in our workplace."

Beth Johnson, National Restaurant Association executive vice-president of public affairs, said N.R.A. is strongly opposed to the "misleadingly titled Employee Free Choice Act, a bill proposing dramatic and harmful changes to U.S. labor law." Currently, employees are entitled to a private-ballot election when deciding whether they want union representation in their workplace, she pointed out.

"Should Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act, employees effectively lose their right to private-ballot elections," she added. "The bill would establish a so-called 'card-check' union organizing system, in which a majority of employees simply sign a card in favor of union representation."

Moving to a card-check process rather than a federally-supervised election is a clear violation of employee rights and one that will subject employees to pressure and intimidation, Ms. Johnson said.

"We have been working with our strong grassroots network of restaurateurs from across the country and our State Restaurant Association partners to actively oppose this bill," she added. "(On March 9), our office was picketed by Washington, D.C.-based union protesters, attempting to intimidate us, much as they would employees under the flawed card-check process. Just as our employees don’t like being pressured on decisions, neither does the National Restaurant Association. Our voices are being heard by lawmakers, and we believe that Congress will do the right thing and protect the right to a private ballot."

American Meat Institute spokesman Dave Ray told MEATPOULTRY.com, "A.M.I. strongly believes in the sanctity of the private ballot and strongly opposes measures that would replace the current secret-ballot elections with a process called ‘card check’ whereby a union is recognized in the workplace if a majority of workers simply sign a card provided by the union. In addition to possibly being pressured into signing cards, the identity of workers who signed (or refused to sign), the ‘check cards’ would be made public. While we are an industry in which the overwhelming majority of our employees belong to a union, we firmly believe in their individual and private right to make that choice."

Mr. Ray said the bill would also permit a government arbitrator to write and impose a two-year binding contract on employees and employers without giving the employees the ability to vote in favor of or against the contract. "A.M.I. believes that workers should be able to bargain on their own behalf," he added.

"The Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the current system of federally-supervised, secret-ballot elections is the fairest way to determine whether or not workers wish to join a union," Mr. Ray said. "Several Courts of Appeal have agreed. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that ‘It would be difficult to imagine a more unreliable method of ascertaining the real wishes of employees than a card check.’ The Second Circuit confirmed that it, too, found the secret ballot ‘a more accurate reflection of the employee’s true desires.’

"A.M.I .strongly opposes the ‘card check’ legislation and we are aggressively lobbying to defend the rights of employers and employees to determine their contracts and benefits," Mr. Ray said.

Richard Lobb, director of communications for the National Chicken Council, said, "The National Chicken Council is firmly opposed to ‘card check’ and will do everything in its power to defeat the bill. We urge all of our members to contact their senators and congressmen to demand that they preserve the right to a private ballot."

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