Card Check: Big Labor Falls Short in Arkansas

We’ll defer to the unnamed White House official and his keen analysis of Tuesday’s Democratic primary runoff election in Arkansas between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and labor-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Lincoln defeated Halter, 52-48 percent. From Ben Smith, Politico:

“Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”

Pointless? No, not really. By devoting organizing muscle and pouring $10 million into Halter’s failed effort, the unions proved the point that labor leaders consider their own political power more important than their memberships’ concerns. And their political power is more pissant than puissant.

The anti-democratic Employee Free Choice Act was a big factor in Tuesday’s primary in Arkansas. Labor turned decisively in April 2009 against Sen. Lincoln when, after months of ambiguity, she said she would vote against the Employee Free Choice Act.  Arkansas is a right-to-work state, and depriving employees of the secret ballot in union-representation elections and forcing contract terms onto employers — the heart of the Employee Free Choice Act — is anathema to voters.

Even Halter recognized that card check was bad electoral news. He hemmed and hawed on his backing for the measure, stuck between his need for union cash and voter support.

Lessons learned:

The Employee Free Choice Act is an election loser, which means it will not pass in the second session of the 111th Congress as stand-alone bill. So labor will look to add pieces of EFCA to other legislation, probably adding the word “jobs” to the measure.

The National Labor Relations Board is where the action is. Big Labor maligned Lincoln for opposing cloture on the nomination of SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel Craig Becker to the NLRB. It was a good vote. A recess appointment, Becker is already showing the signs of the pro-labor activism his critics warned of. It may come after the election — certainly after the last Republican appointee, Peter Schaumber steps down in August — but expect NLRB rule-making designed to achieve some of labor’s goals.

Big Labor can promise a candidate support, even deliver on that support, and yet not determine the elections. Voters dislike the bluster and threats of political force — in campaigns, and in the workplace.

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