Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:47 pm

Nice stock you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

I don’t know whether the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, introduced Tuesday, is a good idea or not. But when tactics like this are being used to oppose it, it pushes me at least a bit in the pro direction:

Embattled financial giant Citigroup Inc., which has received at least $50 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a private conference call on Wednesday to build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. …

Wednesday’s conference call was led by Glenn Spencer, a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an ardent EFCA opponent. It was promoted as “An Update on the Employee Free Choice Act,” but much of the content was focused on demonizing the legislation. EFCA will “inhibit flexibility,” “hamper companies from competing effectively,” and prove “cumbersome” for business, declared Spencer. “From the Chamber’s perspective, and I would say probably from the whole business communities perspective, there are really no amendments you could make to this bill that would make it acceptable.”

The lines of attack from the Chamber official were familiar. But Citigroup’s participation, led by retail analyst Deborah Weinswig, raised some eyebrows. The bank has received ample taxpayer-funded aid through the TARP program, leading some to question whether rallying support for an anti-union effort was the best use of its time or that money. …

And with Citigroup lowering Wal-Mart’s rating one day before the call [Weinswig herself lowered Wal-Mart’s stock from “buy” to “hold” — Lex], some were left wondering whether the bank was deliberating trying to frame EFCA as so calamitous for business that Congress would recoil from touching it. Indeed, as pointed out by one Democratic observer, Weinswig was high on Wal-Mart just a few weeks ago, giving the company a 9.5 rating out of 10.

Having spent almost all of my career in North Carolina, among the most anti-union states in the nation, I have no direct experience with unions. But I do know that the unionization movement of the mid-20th century, whatever its flaws, was a key factor in the development of a strong middle class. Whether a revived union movement would produce broad benefits to the middle class in the current economic climate, I do not know. But it sure looks to me as if Citi is rigging the game here and using our tax dollars to do so. Why, if EFCA is so bad on the merits?

UPDATE: Turns out some anti-EFCA research that’s been widely reported is so badly flawed it shouldn’t be taken seriously, even before we get to the pro-corporate leanings of its author.

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