For all the commentary, exhortations and denunciations involving the Employee Free Choice Act, the “card-check” legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot in the workplace, we doubt the broad public is aware of the issue. To be sure, it’s a regular topic in the labor/activist/left wing blosophere and press, and Democratic superdelegates and unions cite the legislation when endorsing candidates. Meanwhile, some free-market and pro-business bloggers write about it…a lot.
But it seems like the issue is starting to gain a little bit more notice. US News columnist Matt Bandyk just wrote about card check, soliciting input from small business owners on the effects of forced unionization — our term — on the workplaces. His piece was prompted by a news release from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the free-enterprise group, which announced it would include state card-check measures in judging a state’s business environment.
Also, John Lott Jr. — an economist known widely for his statistical work on crime and gun ownership — had a column published at the Fox News website, “Secret Ballots May End in Union Elections If Obama Becomes President.” A statement of the obvious to those who follow the issue — Senator Obama is a cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act — but the Lott column represents a good introduction to the issue for a mass audience.
Why have unions placed this at the top of their legislative agenda? Changing the rules would only make a difference if workers were unwilling to vote in private for unionization, but apparently there are a lot of companies where unions think that this change will make a difference. After all, the AFL-CIO calls the “Employee Free Choice Act” its “million-member mobilization.”
Unions are making an all-out push to get this passed, planning to spend $360 million on the 2008 election, $200 million more than in 2004 general election. Just one union alone, the Service Employees International Union, plans on spending $75 million this year, much of it to help the Democratic presidential nominee. Compare that to the $83 million that John McCain will be able to spend during the fall general election.
Lott’s column certainly drew attention from the leftie proponents of the bill in the form of a failed rebuttal at the Daily Kos.
Ultimately, as Lott’s column demonstrates, it will probably take the fall election and the willingness of candidates to campaign on card check for the issue to impinge on the public’s consciousness. Despite all the union spending, opposition to this profoundly anti-democratic measure is a political winner. As public opinion surveys in key Senate races (Oregon, Maine and Minnesota) show, support for the Employee Free Choice Act drives potential voters away from candidates.
P.S. This is callous. Columnist Jo-Ann Mort at the Democratic-supporting Talking Points Memo blog suggests that Sen. Hillary Clinton assume Sen. Ted Kennedy’s role as the labor’s leading Senate advocate, helping a new President Obama enact the Employee Free Choice Act.
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