WASHINGTON: Business and labor organizations on both sides of the Employee Free Choice Act have turned their communications battle into an online and grassroots effort.
Both the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are focusing on grassroots outreach to communicate the disadvantages and advantages of the bill, which is also called “card check.”
At the heart of the bill, which was introduced before Congress in 2005, 2007, and, most recently, on March 10, is a provision that would make it easier for employees to unionize, but would also remove the secret-ballot voting that is currently part of the process. Removing the secret ballots would make it easier for groups to unionize. The Obama administration is in support of the bill.
In anticipation of the bill's introduction, the Chamber launched the Workforce Freedom Airlift program, a series of events that fly in local small business owners to Washington so they can publicly provide opposition for the bill. The first of a series of planned airlifts occurred on March 10. There is also a Web site, www.workforcefreedomairlift.com, in support of the effort.
“Our strategy to defeat this legislation from day one has been activating the Chamber's grassroots network all across the country to bring small business folks to DC to voice opposition,” said Justin Hakes, external affairs manager for the Washington-based business federation. “What we have always thought [would] carry the day was legislators hearing from state and local business owners from their regions.”
The first fly-in brought in small business owners from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Nebraska, and Louisiana.
The Chamber launched a social media effort with Adfero Group when it announced the campaign last July. It has expanded a virtual march on Washington that was created the last time the bill went to Congress in 2007, said Hakes.
The group, which has registered 13,000 people since July 2008, allows users to register for the march as avatars and send an automatic letter to their elected officials through a Facebook application.
“A lot of the online tools that we have are designed to not only enable folks to voice their opposition if they can't make it to DC, but also to provide materials that they can give to [others],” he said.
Adfero Group partner Matthew Zablud noted that the effort's social media elements allow those who participate to feel like a part of the campaign.
The AFL-CIO, a federation of national and international labor unions that are proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, has posted YouTube videos of workers sharing their support and information about local and national events. Those videos have been published on its Web site, www.employeefreechoiceact.org, in the months leading up to March 10.
The AFL-CIO also launched an online contest that allows users to vote on the most outrageous statements from the opposition.
“We want reporters and the public to know that there is such broad support for the Free Choice Act,” said Alison Omens, media outreach specialist for AFL-CIO. “The public knows that workers need the ability to bargain, to help rebuild the economy, and to create an economy that works for everyone.”
Much of the messaging that the AFL-CIO has put out has focused on how workers' choice can help reshape the economy. Yet the main message has been the fact that the majority of the public supports the legislation, she added.
“In this time of corporate greed and this extreme imbalance between corporations and workers, legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, which will help restore balance to our economy, is critical,” said Omens.