Another 2010 swing state Democrat is backtracking on a bill, coined “card check” by opponents, to make it easier for unions to organize workplaces.
Although the Employee Free Choice Act is labor’s top legislative priority and is widely supported by Democrats who control the House, the Senate and the White House progress on the bill has stalled in light of the economic downturn and the 2010 elections.
During the 2008 campaign cycle, many Democrats including President Barack Obama, vowed to quickly secure passage of the bill if elected. That hasn’t happened though. Negotiations broke down when then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, considered a key vote on the bill, backed away from the bill last March, citing the negative economic impact it would have on business. He became a Democrat shortly thereafter and some of his new party colleagues, who are running in 2010 like him, are following suit.
The latest one is Democratic Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon, who may run against Republican Sen. David Vitter. The Hill reported Wednesday that Mr. Melancon, a co-sponsor of the House version of EFCA, is working on a “bipartisan solution” to amend the bill to make it more appeasing to business groups.
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who filled former Sen. Ken Salazar’s seat when he was named Secretary of the Department of Interior and is running for re-election in 2010, facing similar pressure from business groups, has said he would have a “hard time” voting for cloture on the bill, according to the Denver Post.
Likewise, Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln who said she “cannot support the bill in its current form” last April.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who one of EFCA’s most vocal supporters as a member of the House, acknowledged the changing political reality in an interview with Fox Business Network Wednesday, by indicating EFCA would be diluted in some fashion by Congress.
FBN anchor Liz Claman asked Secretary Solis if she had enough votes to pass it this year and she replied it was up to the House and the Senate “to figure out what changes or modifications might have to be made to the legislative if at all. And if they have the votes.”
“I think that this is going to be negotiated at a different level,” she said. “Obviously it’s something that the Senate is now looking at. I know there are people working behind the scenes to try to negotiate an agreement. And I look forward to seeing that something is resolved.”
One of the most likely compromises that would be made would be to strip out the bill’s provision to eliminate the secret ballot requirement for union organizing, called “card check” by opponents. That would still leave in place new binding arbitration rules, but would take EFCA’s critics’ biggest talking points off the table.
Workforce Management is highlighting a quote from Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, an EFCA sponsor who is not running for eleciton in 2010, as evidence of this. According to their report, he told gatherers at a Capitol Hill event last May: “Certain words have gotten toxic, like card check, so we don’t use those words anymore.”