Feinstein Withdraws Support for EFCA

As debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) continues to rage, national news sources report that one key backer, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has withdrawn her support for EFCA. The news is another setback for organized labor and signals a fracture in Democratic support for EFCA.

Feinstein cited the failing economy as the primary reason for her withdrawal. She indicated, however, that she would likely support less polarizing alternative labor reform legislation. Feinstein said, "This is an extraordinarily difficult economy, and feelings are very strong on both sides of the issue. I would hope there is some way to find common ground that would be agreeable to both business and labor."

Feinstein's withdrawal of support comes just a week after Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) did the same. Specter was the only Republican supporter of the bill in the Senate when it was introduced in 2007. He also identified the faltering economy for his change in position.

A Compromise on the Horizon?

As support for EFCA in its current form continues to weaken, the possibility of avoiding a Republican filibuster and passing EFCA as drafted becomes less likely. But, as Feinstein and Specter suggest, an amended version of the EFCA could gather enough bipartisan support to pass.

Executives of Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods recently proposed one such alternative that they refer to as a "third way." Their suggestion eliminates the binding arbitration provision of EFCA and preserves management's right to demand a secret-ballot election but shortens the period of time available for management to campaign against unionization. Although both business and labor attacked this "third way" proposal, other compromise ideas are being floated and some type of EFCA compromise is beginning to seem likely.

Planning and Preparation Are Still Necessary

Even if EFCA is modified through political compromise, it undoubtedly will contain pro labor provisions that will make it easier for unions to organize. Consequently, many employers are continuing to stay ahead of the curve and are taking steps now to protect themselves.