The unions may be losing Democrats in pursuit of their number one legislative priority, but they say one powerful ally remains on their side: God.
The Employee Free Choice Act, which would ease union organizing rules, is widely supported by Democrats who control the House, the Senate and the White House, but progress on the bill has stalled in light of the economic downturn and the 2010 elections.
Democratic Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon, who may run against Republican Sen. David Vitter, is the latest to fall off the EFCA wagon. 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 in a way that would make it more appeasing to business groups.
Likewise, 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, has said he would have a “hard time” voting for cloture on the bill, because of the burden it would pose on businesses. Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, another 2010 candidate, said she “cannot support the bill in its current form” last April.
While support for the bill appears to be dwindling on Capitol Hill, the unions are playing a trump card.
The AFL-CIO issued a press release on Wednesday lauding a new papal encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI calling for increasing the size and strength of union forces saying it was evidence of the “moral imperative” of their agenda.
“Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions,” it said. “Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”
The AFL-CIO says this statement “makes it clear it’s a matter of moral imperative” to preserve the freedom to organize labor unions.