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July 31, 2008

EFCA: Why The Republicans REALLY Hate Obama

Posted in: Labor

The NRSC put together a commercial that’s supposed to scare the bejesus out of everyone at the thought of EFCA (the Employee Free Choice Act) passing under an Obama administration, but I couldn’t have made a better one myself. The prospect should be exciting for everyone who considers themselves a progressive.

But there’s going to be a lot of misinformation out there about what exactly EFCA is, because the Republicans and the corporate community are running scared and whipping out their checkbooks. According to American Rights at Work, initial advertising figures include:

Their message? Well, other than the fact that the word "union" is supposed to strike McCarthey-esque fear into the hearts of all who hear it, we’re supposed to believe that EFCA would take away the right to a secret ballot, which would leave workers open to thuggish union intimidation tactics. Sheldon Adelstein, principle funder of Ari Fleischer’s Freedom’s Watch, calls EFCA "one of the fundamental threats to society." (The other one appears to be radical Islam).

So I’d like to resurrect a post that Jordan Barab wrote here a while back about why unions care so much about getting the right to use "card check" as opposed to having to rely on secret ballot:

Card check means that instead of the traditional "secret ballot" election to determine if workers want to organize a union, management voluntarily agrees to recognize the union if a majority sign cards indicting their desire to join the union. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it is up to the employer to agree to card check recognition or to require a traditional election. Another tactic being employed by unions is "neutrality" agreements where the employer agrees not to actively campaign against the union.

Because of the difficulty in conducting a fair election, card check campaigns — instead of secret ballot elections — have become labor’s main tool for organizing the unorganized. Card checks were used to sign up roughly 70 percent of the private-sector workers who joined unions last year, according to the A.F.L.-C.I.O, compared with less than 5 percent two decades ago. Workers in Las Vegas casinos, janitors in Houston and thousands of workers at Cingular have organized recently using card check. The problem is that although some 57 million workers say they would join a union, according to research by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, secret ballot elections, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), generally fall victim to management campaigns of intimidation, threats, harassment and firings that tend to turn the vote against the union, even when a majority of workers had initially expressed interest.

Chuck Schumer actually deserves a lot of praise here. (Yes, that was me, I haven’t been kidnapped and replaced by zombie bloggers.) He has pledged the support of every Democratic Senate candidate for EFCA. Why are Schumer and other normally pro-corporate Democrats getting behind this? Simple: bigger majorities. More union members mean more union money into Democratic elections, just like the NRSC fears. More local organizers available to support Democratic candidates.

Others care because strong unions mean a strong middle class, and money stops flowing with such ease to the richest of the rich. It also means that the corporate stranglehold on American politics will have a seriously emboldened challenger. Huge amounts of money are already being spent against Democrats like Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Jeanne Shaheen, Al Franken and Tom Allen as they desperately try to keep the Senate from achieving the 60 votes needed for cloture.

Obama was one of the co-sponsors of EFCA last year, and has pledged to sign it into law if he’s elected. An Obama victory on November 4 would further unleash huge sums of cash attempting to intimidate the corporate friendlies in the Senate to find reasons to water any bill down. And then the battle for control of the NLRB would begin, because they are one of the many regulatory arms that have been heavily politicized and disempowered during the Bush years and enforcement would largely fall to them.

John Ensign of the NRSC is saying that EFCA is "our No. 1 issue to raise money on," and not without reason.

It’s going to be a helluva fight.



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