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IFDA Targets 'Insidious' Union Organizing Bill



{mosimage}Calling this proposed legislation "insidious," David French, IFDA senior vice president, government relations, believes the bill violates the rights of workers and employers.

"We are very concerned about an insidious piece of legislation that has bubbled up from the side of organized labor that would allow union organizing campaigns to succeed without using a secret ballot election," French said in a recent interview with ID Access.

"Current labor laws allow unions to demand an election in a workplace by getting a majority of the employees to sign a union-recognition card. That process is typically open to peer pressure and other forms of coercion. It's not a confidential process. A union could very effectively use a lot of coercive and non-coercive tools to gain the majority of cards," he explained.

French pointed out that despite the presence of the required amount of signed cards, in reality, 42% of secret ballots have resulted in a defeat of the unionizing effort.

"It's a very significant erosion of workers' rights to choose what kind of workplace they operate in and it's an erosion of the employer's rights," he said, noting the more 200 congressmen, mostly Democrats, and 43 senators support the bill.

"It's a very significant erosion of workers' and employer's rights."
"We're working with a coalition of interested employer groups to educate members of Congress why it's a bad idea. We're pushing for a separate bill that would require a secret-ballot election before a union would be recognized," French said.

IFDA is urging its members and all foodservice distributors to write to their elected officials in Washington, pointing out the inherent danger in this bill and urging them to support the group's alternative proposal.

Among unresolved legislative issues that IFDA is continuing to work on this year are hours of service and permanent death tax repeal. French said industry representatives at IFDA's government relations committee are very concerned with these issues. The hours of service matter, specifically, he said, "does not work for many companies in the industry. It's a big priority."

In addition, late last year, French related, in a Q&A document, IFDA discovered that the FDA appeared to "backtrack ever so slightly" on lot-number tracking, "which is a big concern of ours." He said IFDA intends to make sure that lot-number tracking stops with the manufacturer and is not extended to the distributor.

With concern about avian influenza or bird flu growing around the world, French said the government has begun discussing how the country would cope with a crisis if the disease crosses U.S. borders. In response, IFDA has initiated preliminary conversations with policymakers about their plans for foodservice distribution in the context of a quarantine, if one is necessary, he said.

French also indicated that the early months of this year could pose problems for all legitimate industry lobbyists in Washington since Capitol Hill was rocked by bribery scandals that have compelled the Justice Department to declare its intention to prosecute all alleged perpetrators.

"It's going to be interesting for a couple of reasons. The definition of bribery that the Justice Department is using is a fairly stringent one and raises the question of what most people have considered legitimate campaign contributions, such as dinners or trips," he explained.

Indicating that the issue won't directly affect the work of IFDA, French added that it could "distract elected officials from the work that we'd like to see them doing. It could limit the effectiveness of some smaller trade associations."

French explained that lobbying is a combination of education and marketing.

"I'm taking the opportunity to tell lawmakers what our industry thinks about something, educate them and help them understand the industry a little bit better," he said, expressing hope that the issue is settled quickly so that Congress can move on to more important matters.

IFDA's next industry educational action on Capitol Hill has been set for July 10-11, in conjunction with its Thomas Jefferson Awards banquet, and French urged distributorships to send as many representatives as they can to both events.

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