Card Check: Not So Unanimous Support

By March 29, 2007Labor Unions

Senator Kennedy’s introduction of the Senate version of the spuriously named Employee Free Choice Act came at an odd moment. A usual course of action would have been to drop the bill earlier in the week, for example, at his HELP Committee’s hearing on the legislation.

Another typical PR stroke would have been to announce the bill’s introduction at one of this week’s many labor events and rallies, like the Building and Construction Trades conference. (A fair-minded report on the event is at TNR Online; Jim Geraghty had coverage here and here.) The announcement would have fired up the unionists and the actual bill would have given them something to take to congressional offices as a prop.

The delay probably occurred because Kennedy could not round up the full Democratic caucus to sign on as original cosponsors. As you can see from the text, the following Democratic Senators are not on the bill: Sen. Lincoln, AR; Sen. Nelson, NE; Sen. Pryor AR, and Sen. Salazar, CO. Neither is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, who was an original cosponsor two years ago of S. 842, Sen. Kennedy’s previous bill. (Kennedy also sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act in 2003, S. 1925).)

Which brings us to this item from yesterday’s White House Bulletin:

Labor union backers of a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions say they face an uphill battle in the Senate, although they’re confident they have unanimous support from Democrats. Labor union leaders expect a vote late in the spring or perhaps in the summer; one estimated that a vote could be three to four months off on the Employee Free Choice Act.

We’re almost starting from scratch in the Senate,” says Bill Samuel, legislative director of the AFL-CIO. He predicts the bill will have unanimous support from Democrats and at least one Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Samuel says that if there is a filibuster threat in the Senate, labor will need to come up with eight Republicans to support the bill. “It’s never been debated in the Senate. For the last 12 years, these issues have had scant attention,” he says.

We detect an absence of bravado. And the confidence about having unanimous support from the Democrats appears misplaced. Could the effort to ram the Employee Free Choice Act through Congress without a full debate or understanding of its radical implications be sputtering?

Yes, it could.