Employee Free Choice Act
I received a news release this week that about a major economic development project planned for Eau Claire County that has been put on hold because of pending federal and/or state legislation that could negatively affect the deal. If the economic development project were to go forward, Eau Claire County would realize a $50 million impact and the creation of 800 jobs over the next five years. However, if the Employee Free Choice Act were to be approved, the prospective employer was going to bail on the local relocation and expansion.
The Employee Free Choice Act legislation is union-friendly. Basically, the measure would require employers to allow workers to vote to become authorized to establish a union. The current law allows for votes to be conducted within the workplace, but the ballots are to remain confidential. If the process were to become more public, it is estimated that a majority of those entities would likely become unionized. In other words, unions would have a better opportunity to grow their memberships as a result of the proposed legislation. Big corporations are not so enamored with the concept.
All local development officials, since they have signed confidentiality clauses, would not reveal the name of the company that is thinking about pulling the plug on a major expansion in Eau Claire County. I immediately thought the firm in question was Nestle'. After all, Nestle' is in the process of planning a major, multi-million dollar expansion on Eau Claire's west side that will create at least 100 jobs. However, I was informed by people who are familiar with the process that this issue does not involve Nestle'. Now, I am in a quandry since I have no idea what company intends to create 800 jobs over the next five years.
I then thought about major retailers who may consider an expansion in Eau Claire County that may be anti-union. Wal-Mart and Menards came to mind. But then I realized that a $50 million investment is a lot of money for a retail entity.
I also thought about large companies that already have a presence in the Chippewa Valley. Yet, firms like Phillips Plastics, who rely on the automobile industry, and other high-tech businesses that are struggling to maintain their current operations given the poor economy, are probably not in the mix.
I know it is my job to do the research and report what I learn about what is happening within the local business community since that its what my customers pay for. But I have no idea who this prospective employer is. I do have a feeling, though, that intense discussions about the Employee Free Choice Act are forthcoming soon.