Card Check: NYT Story on Senate Dems and EFCA Puzzles Many

By July 18, 2009Labor Unions

The NAM’s labor policy guy was on Capitol Hill yesterday, checking on the status of the Employee Free Choice Act. Senate staffers expressed puzzlement over the New York Times story on Page One, “Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions,” which reported that Senate Democrats were willing to eliminate the “card check” provisions from draft legislation. There was nothing new in the story, they observed, and yet it was getting big play. As our labor person described it, that article could have been written anytime within the last month, but the placement on Page One above the fold was the Times’ way of saying it was an important development.

Whence the strange news judgement? It could be as simple as the Times having to hold another story editors originally had scheduled, so they had to find an article to fill the Page One hole. Or someone in the Senate was really flacking the story hard. Or a labor official and NYT source, irked at the surrendering of a top union goal, pushed the storyline. Or the reporter had reported the story, thought it was pretty good, and sold it to his editors.

Happens all the time.

Still, no matter how not new the story was, the article illustrates how the NYT continues to set the news agenda for the rest of the country:

Could we please not call it a “compromise?” Pro-labor Democrats agreeing with other pro-labor Democrats is not a compromise, it’s the determination of political strategy. Any bill that keeps binding arbitration is a union bill unacceptable to business.

Here’s a theory, admittedly paranoid and probably giving labor too much credit: The NYT story represents a two-part jujitsu strategy by labor. Labor claims outrage at this “compromise,” but the removal of card check prompts business to emphasize how toxic the binding arbitration provisions are. THEN, labor agrees to drop binding arbitration too, leaving business sputtering about how the remaining legislation is still bad but struggling to articulate why. With business politically neutered, the Senate passes a bill with ambush elections, a gag on employer involvement in the election process, and increased penalties. Unions still wind up with a new ability to intimidate employees into joining unions and an election process slanted toward labor.

We wouldn’t call that compromise, either.


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