1:52 PM Eastern - Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Chamber of Commerce and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Lobbying Day

From the moment they flew people to Washington, DC to lobby against the Employee Free Choice Act, things were just not going the Chamber of Commerce's way...

From bringing a major labor law violator to lobby on behalf of (wait for it...) labor law reform, to getting caught in a lie by Sen. Feinstein, this can't be how the Chamber wanted their lobbying week to go.

TERRIBLE: As one of their main lobbyists on labor law reform, the Chamber of Commerce brings to Washington... a major labor law violator.

One of the Arkansas business leaders that the Chamber flew in was Michael Keck of St. Vincent Health System, where multiple unfair labor practices have been filed against management. (As an executive, Michael is "management.") It took St. Vincent nurses more than 3 years to get a union contract, during which time the National Labor Relations Board had to step in at least twice.  Read the full TPM piece here.

HORRIBLE: The Chamber claims that Sen. Dianne Feinstein no longer supports Employee Free Choice, and is promptly smacked down...by Sen. Feinstein. After a local California Chamber group met with Sen. Feinstein, they put out the word that she was changing her position; she did not support the bill. The only problem? It was flatly untrue. In response, Sen. Feinstein issued this clarifying statement:

"A statement has been put out mischaracterizing my position on this bill. The truth is that I am working to find common ground between the needs of both business and labor in order to reach a bipartisan solution. I believe we must find a way to protect the privacy of individual workers so that they may elect whether to form a union free of intimidation."

The same day, Sen. Johnson came out in favor of Employee Free Choice.

According to Wednesday's Argus Leader, Sen. Tim Johnson told a delegation of South Dakota business leaders Wednesday that he would vote to bring a controversial labor bill to the Senate floor for debate. "His decision to vote to consider the Employee Free Choice Act is a blow to local and national business groups, which have lobbied strenuously against the measure," wrote the Leader. It's "very significant," acknowledges the state Chamber president.

NO GOOD:  According to a Maine small business owner: The US Chamber of Commerce doesn't speak for small businesses any more than Burger King speaks for cows.  In response to a statement by the US Chamber of Commerce that Small Business owners oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, Mainer Ben Wootten said: "The US Chamber of Commerce doesn't speak for small businesses any more than Burger King speaks for cows. While the Chamber works overtime to represent the narrow interests of bloated, wealthy corporations, our nation's small businesses are struggling simply to keep their doors open.  We need common-sense measures like health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act to help small business owners control costs and ensure that their employees feel truly invested in the long-term future of their workplace."

VERY BAD: Backed into a corner, they're now making misleading claims about the Employee Free Choice Act in a new ad. Many people saw the misleading and hypocritical ad the Chamber of Commerce placed in Roll Call and Politico yesterday. The fact is that -- when it suits them -- companies use binding arbitration all the time. In March of this year, the Chamber called Consumer Arbitration, "Fair, Inexpensive, and Unbiased."  But when it comes to creating a contract that works for workers, companies often refuse to negotiate a first agreement, or use stall tactics and gimmicks to delay the process for years.  Sixty-two percent of workers who form a union lack an agreement one year later and companies refuse to even negotiate in good faith in over 28% of cases.

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