5:45 PM Eastern - Thursday, May 7, 2009

Corporate Lobbyists: We Were for Arbitration Before We Were Against It

In a new round of attacks against the Employee Free Choice Act, corporate lobbyists and executives are showing their true, greedy selves.

In recent weeks, corporate lobbyist groups such as the Center for Union Facts, the Chamber of Commerce, and conservatives like Newt Gingrich, have waged war to prevent workers from enjoying what CEOs take for granted: a contract.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, and in a Politico op-ed from Newt Gingrich last month, anti-worker groups have attacked the "first contract arbitration" portion of the Employee Free Choice Act. That provision seeks to stop employers from using endless foot-dragging against workers who have voted for a union, but have yet to secure a contract. The legislation says that if employers and workers can't reach an agreement in a reasonable amount of time - 120 days - either side can bring in a neutral, private-sector arbitrator to settle the dispute.

Besides the foot-dragging, this assault on first contract arbitration is particularly disturbing for another reason: Corporations use arbitration all the time, because they say it's a fast, inexpensive way to settle disputes.

Here are just some of the quotes that opponents of Employee Free Choice have said about arbitration in the past:

"For more than 80 years, arbitration has helped Americans settle disputes fairly, quickly and inexpensively, without having to file a lawsuit or navigate the court system." - Lisa Rickard, president of the US Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform (4/2/08)

"Arbitration is mutually beneficial, which is what we have always thought." - Arne Wagner, assistant general counsel for Bank of America [ABA Journal, December 1994]

"[F]ederal policy... favors the use of arbitration as an efficient, effective, and less expensive means of resolving disputes...Arbitration, has served as an essential valve for the nation's overburdened civil justice system." - Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee signed by US Chamber of Commerce, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Retail Federation, National Association of Manufacturers, Jackson Lewis, et al (2/7/08)
Just a little bit of a double standard, no? Arbitration is the best thing ever when it comes to protecting their wallets, but when it comes to adding the safety net of first contract arbitration during collective bargaining, it's the devil incarnate that must be stopped at all costs.

There's one position that CEOs have been fairly consistent on, however: if it allows them to hold on to their corporate power against working families, then they're all for it. Even if it means being a little "flexible" in their public stances.

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