Los Angeles Starbucks Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Whole Foods Market are joining forces to propose alternatives to a bill that makes it easier for workers to unionize but is strongly opposed by U.S. corporations.
The companies said they sought a "third way" as big business and labor unions face off over the Employee Free Choice Act, backed by President Barack Obama.
The "card check" legislation would allow workers to form a union when a majority of employees sign authorization cards. That would change the current practice in which workers usually vote on unionizing, although the bill would leave the election option open for workers to choose, according to a Reuters report.
Passing the bill is a top priority of labor unions, which in November helped Obama win the White House and the Democrats increase their hold on Congress.
U.S. businesses and investors oppose the legislation, with analysts saying retailers would face higher labor costs and greater unionization risks. Wal-Mart said last week it was confident the legislation would be defeated in Congress.
Starbucks, Costco and Whole Foods, which invited other corporations, unions and public interest groups to join them, proposed instead that unions be given more access to meet with workers, stricter penalties for labor violations and a guaranteed right to request secret ballots in all circumstances.