REAL ESTATE

Spotlight on Union Voting

BY Richard Berman

Labor leaders have a moral victory, while business doesn’t seem to even know there’s a fight.

Most of the retailers I’ve met with around the country haven’t heard of it. Jack Welch recently cautioned his peers that they were sleepwalking into disaster. The AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney vowed to make its passage inevitable by 2009.

It’s the Orwellian concept named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). It’s bad news for businesses and their employees. And it’s alarming how few opinion leaders have taken notice, despite a trial run of EFCA making it all the way through the House and to the Senate before a filibuster put it into temporary remission.

Desperate to prop up its dwindling membership rolls, the AFLCIO has called on Congress to scrap industrial democracy. EFCA would allow unions to force their way into the workplace using a petition-like process called “card check,” instead of the traditional private-ballot election for employees. If EFCA becomes law, employees will have no opportunity to express their unionization preferences in a voting booth. Instead, if they would normally vote “no,” they must refuse to sign a union card in front of labor organizers.

It’s easy enough to envision how this “voting” would be bad for employees. In organizing drives where it’s been used in the past, countless workers have testified to being intimidated, coerced and deceived into signing cards that give unions access to businesses where they are unable to win actual elections.

When The Orange County Register reported on the unionization of a health network’s nurses in Southern California, several nurses wrote to complain that when they signed cards they were never told they were being signed up for a union.

Business can’t afford to relax simply because EFCA didn’t make it through the Senate this time. Warning shots aren’t supposed to hit their targets.

What I can’t square is why a business world obsessed with vision and leadership has not demonstrated much of either in the face of a massive union power grab. It doesn’t take much of a visionary to see that even if EFCA didn’t become law this year, 18 months from now may be an entirely different story. And it doesn’t take a PR pro to understand that the retail industry’s position must be publicized now, before ill-informed public opinion can solidify in labor’s favor. Several surveys have shown that, when educated about this attempt to hijack elections, Americans (even those in unions) overwhelmingly support keeping the secret ballot.

If Americans don’t learn now, they will in a couple of years, when organizers start cornering employees at offices, shops and factories—not to mention their homes—to get their very public signatures on union authorization cards.

If an over-the-horizon view of this issue isn’t enough, retailers should consider their current obligations. The corporate world owes its shareholders and its employees more than a passive attitude. Union work rules can kill a company’s stock value faster than you can say “Bethlehem Steel” (I should know, I was a labor lawyer there). And no employee deserves to have dues money forced out of his paycheck just because a union managed to twist enough arms.

For purely selfish reasons, retailing leaders might also fear the disruptive effect the Employee Free Choice Act would have on their jobs. It would make CEOs into labor negotiators, CFOs into contract lawyers and current HR directors into retirees.

Organized labor’s passion for getting this law passed is the elephant in the room: Ignore it at your own risk.

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Coca-Cola names chief marketer

BY CSA STAFF

ATLANTA The Coca-Cola Company has appointed Joseph Tripodi to the position of chief marketing and commercial officer, reporting to president and coo Muhtar Kent. Most recently, Tripodi was the senior vp and chief marketing officer for Allstate Insurance Co., where he was responsible for the structure, strategy and execution of all of their marketing efforts.

In his role, Tripodi will lead a new function consisting of the combination of the company’s global marketing and commercial organizations. In addition to overseeing all aspects of marketing, he will be responsible for coordinating and leading the company’s strategic direction in commercial leadership.

Prior to joining Allstate in 2003, Tripodi was chief marketing officer for The Bank of New York. He served as chief marketing officer for Seagram Spirits & Wine Group from 1999 to 2002. From 1989 to 1998, he was the evp for global marketing, products and services for MasterCard International, where among other achievements he was a chief architect of the acclaimed “Priceless” campaign. Previously, he spent seven years with the Mobil Oil Corp., where he gained considerable international experience in roles of increasing responsibility in planning, marketing, business development and operations in New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Guam.

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Whole Foods takes top spot on EPA list

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON Whole Foods Market took the top spot this quarter on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Top 10 Retail Partners in its Green Power Partnership program. Other major retailers on the list include Kohl’s (2), Staples (4), Lowe’s (6) and Office Depot.

According to its profile on the EPA Web site, currently, Whole Foods Market is purchasing or generating 100% of its total national power load from green power sources.

The Top 10 Retail Partners in the Green Power Partnership is released quarterly and represents the largest completed annual green power purchases of all Retail Partners within the Green Power Partnership. According to the EPA, the combined green power purchases of these organizations amounts to an estimated 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, which is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power more than 140,000 average American homes each year.

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