Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Blagojevich-foodservice connection

With all the news pouring out of Illinois about Gov. Blagojevich’s eBay approach to filling Barack Obama’s Senate seat, you may have missed the connection to the restaurant industry. Among the names that apparently came up in secretly recorded conversations was Service Employees International Union, the new-age labor organization that’s hell-bent on organizing more foodservice workers.

The New York Times reported that the criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich cites the union as one of the parties the governor approached with a quid pro quo offer. The union works behind the scenes to get Blago a job as head of a union confederacy called Change to Win, and in exchange SEIU gets an ally in the Senate and help in pushing its agenda on Capitol Hill.

The revelations underscore what should be a big worry for the industry: The ally who would have been considered for the empty Senate seat, according to press reports, is Valerie Jarrett, who took herself out of contention because Obama wanted her as White House advisor. That choice has since been made, meaning a strongly pro-labor voice will be at the new President’s right hand.

Among the measures that will undoubtedly come out of Congress next year is the so-called card check law, which will take away secret balloting on whether or not a restaurant’s staff should allow a restaurant to represent it. The wrinkle in the Blago story underscores just how strong a threat the trade may be facing.

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