- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, taking a page from organized labor’s playbook, is trying to marshal its membership to counter labor’s influence within the Democratic-controlled Congress and the November elections.

“What we face is a tidal wave of union political spending in 2008, followed by an even bigger wave of legislative action aimed at driving up unionization and workplace regulation,” said Steven J. Law, the chamber’s chief legal officer and general counsel.

“We are mobilizing our membership across the country to counter this campaign to Europeanize the American work force.”

The chamber says the nationwide initiative, which it will formally announce Thursday, will borrow from tactics regularly employed by unions, including outreach programs designed to mobilize individuals and local groups throughout the country, media advertisements and efforts to encourage voters to pressure elected officials and the media to take action on certain issues, such as efforts to make it easier for workers to unionize.

The chamber declined to put a price tag on its campaign.

“There is nothing new here, this is the same old same old” from the pro-business movement, said Fred Azcarate, who heads a workers rights campaign for the AFL-CIO labor federation.

Among labor’s top legislative priorities is passage in Congress of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that would allow unions to form after getting a majority of employees to sign a card or petition.

The proposal has pitted labor activists and union foes in a fierce lobbying and public-relations campaign during the past few years.

Supporters of the proposal say the card-signing - or “card-check” - method is more fair than holding a secret-ballot election because it’s a simpler, more direct approach for workers to decide whether they want to unionize. Labor adds it would help protect itself from anti-union employers and lawmakers.

The chamber and other opponents say the card-check method is undemocratic and would hurt business interests.

Card-check legislation failed in Congress last year, but unions are pushing to get the proposal reintroduced.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliates collectively are expected to spend about $200 million this year on get-out-the-vote campaigns, issue ads and other election-related purposes.

“This definitely will be the biggest grass-roots mobilization we’ve ever had,” Mr. Azcarate said.

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