Labor's Still Got Some Muscle
A couple days ago, the LA Times, no doubt dripping with glee, printed a story about labor being outmaneuvered on the Employee Free Choice Act and in particular the card-check provision. First of all, the idea that anyone in the labor movement would be surprised by corporate opposition to this bill is kind of crazy. They knew that big business would throw everything they had at this, and that Republicans and key corporate Dems would resist passage.
But rumors of labor's demise are greatly exaggerated. First of all, Tom Harkin is making a smart threat, vowing to either reach a compromise on Employee Free Choice or force his fellow lawmakers to vote on it.
That may not sound like a grave threat, but it may well be. Two of the bills main skeptics--Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--face re-election next year, and both, for different reasons, may ultimately need union support to prevail. Specter, who tacked to the right and came out against EFCA before becoming a Democrat, is facing pressure from the Democratic base and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) to move left or face a primary challenge.
And at least one high level union official has suggested that if Lincoln doesn't come around and support an EFCA compromise, she may face a green party challenger, in addition to a Republican challenger, in the general election.
And let's not forget that labor still can throw their weight around on non-EFCA issues, and they came up with a major victory to stymie the Obama Administration's apparent efforts to pass a corporate-written trade deal:
U.S. officials said they will delay seeking congressional approval for a pending free-trade deal with Panama until President Barack Obama offers a new “framework” for trade.
The administration, which in March said it would move quickly to pass the trade agreement with Panama, wants to outline how trade fits with other priorities such as assistance for unemployed workers and health care, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat said today.
“It’s clear that trade agreements in the last few years have been much too divisive,” Eissenstat told the Senate Finance Committee. “We want to make sure that Panama doesn’t contribute to that divisiveness.” [...]
Eissenstat’s comments follow remarks by John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO labor federation, that unions would oppose a rush to ratify the deal. The Panama accord was signed in 2007 and was viewed as the least controversial of three trade agreements reached by President George W. Bush and pending congressional approval.
Really, the wolf whistles and hoots hoping that labor is demoralized and devoid of clout really are embarrassing.