The National Association of Manufacturers and BIPAC, the Business Industry Political Action Committee, held a joint news conference this morning to discuss the election results and what they mean for business with respect to an Obama Administration and new Congress.

Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times asked a question about business’ strategy toward organized labor and its plans to aggressively push its agenda, especially the Employee Free Choice Act.

NAM President John Engler responded:

I think that private sector unionization is about seven-and-a-half percent of the workforce, and they’ve really maximized their role with that percentage of the workforce. There’s another 90 percent out there that we would hope we can talk to and link up with, too.

I think one of the risks for a new Obama Administration is early on get typecast anywhere, and get put in that box and to end up having, you know, the image that they’ve got seven-and-a-half percent of the workforce and they’re line of sight, but the rest of us will be dealt with later…

While they’ll want to go quickly, I think there’s a risk for the Administration, and therefore I think there will be some caution being urged on the members of Congress. I think also that some of the issues that they’re pushing are not going to be deemed to be helpful to the economy and to a recovery. They may be helpful to their treasury but not to the overall economy…

We think there are number of new members who are going to take a little broader view of things. They’re not going to be ready to get rid of all the Right to Work laws in this country and go to the International Labor Organization standards for labor, they’re not going to be willing to tip a lot of labor law on its head …

One thing is very clear on the polling on the secret ballot: 70 percent of Democrats believe that that ought to be retained, including a majority of union members that were surveyed. It’s not a way to win popular opinion early on.

In her comments, BIPAC’s Bernadette Budde made the point that organized labor was late to join the Barack Obama cause, first supporting John Edwards or some backing Senator Hillary Clinton or standing on the sidelines.

The whole exchange is below…

Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times: Organized labor has a plan rolling out, as I understand it, to make passage of a number of their agenda items top priorities with the new Democratic-controlled executive and legislative branch, including EFCA at the top of the list. And I wondered strategically if you could speak a little more to how you respond to this new environment, in which labor has very good relations with the top leadership in Congress and with the White House, and is well staffed and poised to take advantage of this. How does NAM and Bipac respond to the changed advantage in a strategic way. And if you can answer with some specifics, that would be great.

Bernadette Budde, BIPAC: Let me jump in, because I have an overall sort of ‘Bratty Bernadette’ response, which is, “Oh, yah?” I think they’re riding in the caboose in a train that ran down the station and got put together without them on the Democratic side. I mean, the President, where were they when this began? With other candidates or standing on the sidelines. So again, as I say about labor’s overreach with its failure to understand an expanded or different demographic.

I also wonder whether they haven’t misperceived, when I ask the question, what’s a Democrat?

Are the Democrats who occupy the White House, the Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives … feel as beholden to labor as they might have five or ten years ago? And when you look at some of these individuals, well, at least be a little…let’s step back and not as quickly answer that question. Just because they think that they drove the engine doesn’t mean that they were somewhere in the caboose.

John Engler, NAM: I think that private sector unionization is about seven-and-a-half percent of the workforce, and they’ve really maximized their role with that percentage of the workforce. There’s another 90 percent out there that we would hope we can talk to and link up with, too.

I think one of the risks for a new Obama Administration is early on get typecast anywhere, and get put in that box and to end up having, you know, the image that they’ve got seven-and-a-half percent of the workforce and they’re line of sight, but the rest of us will be dealt with later…

While they’ll want to go quickly, I think there’s a risk for the Administration, and therefore I think there will be some caution being urged on the members of Congress. I think also that some of the issues that they’re pushing are not going to be deemed to be helpful to the economy and to a recovery. They may be helpful to their treasury but not to the overall economy…

We think there are number of new members who are going to take a little broader view of things. They’re not going to be ready to get rid of all the Right to Work laws in this country and go to the International Labor Organization standards for labor, they’re not going to be willing to tip a lot of labor law on its head …

One thing is very clear on the polling on the secret ballot: 70 percent of Democrats believe that that ought to be retained, including a majority of union members that were surveyed. It’s not a way to win popular opinion early on.

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