The Orwellian named Employee Free Choice Act, better known as Card Check, has been introduced in both houses of Congress. The intent of the legislation is to open more businesses of unionization, thus increasing the power of a key Democratic constituency.
Hitherto, when the employees of a non union company are interested in joining or forming a union, they hold an election through use of a secret ballot. This arrangement, in recent years, has not reversed the decline of unions in the private sector. So unions and their allies in the Congress are pushing for a new provision called Card Check that would make it easier for unions to organize employees in non unions businesses.
Card Check works by allowing union organizers to solicit signatures from employees in a business targeted for unionization. Employees will be forced to publicly decide whether they are in favor of joining or organizing a union or not. Critics suggest that this arrangement opens the door for union intimidation of employees, forcing them to sign for a union whether or not they actually favor one. Business groups point out that unions tend to increase the cost of labor, which might be considered a bad idea in the middle of an economic down turn.
Both critics and supporters of Card Check acknowledge that should the Employee Free Choice Act were to pass, more businesses would be unionized than if secret ballots were used in union organizing elections.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that some Senators, who had hitherto supported Card Check when it had come up in 2007 are now feeling skittish about voting for it now. Democratic Senators Landrieu of Louisiana, Pryor and Lincoln of Arkansas, and Republican Senator Specter of Pennsylvania, who had supported Card Check are now either opposed or wavering. This suggests that the Senate lacks the sixty votes necessary to cut off debate on Card Check and thus allow the measure to pass.
There seems to be two reasons for this. The vote in 2007 was without consequence, because Senators and Congressmen knew that they could support the unions by voting for the Card Check bill without seeing it actually passed, since then President George W. Bush vetoed it. Also, a well funded campaign by business groups and the economic down turn has persuaded some law makers that an economic down turn is not the time for increasing the cost of labor, even if it is greatly desired by the unions.
If Card Check fails to pass, it would constitute a crushing defeat for the Democrats in Congress, the unions, and President Barack Obama, who has expressed support for the measure. A Card Check defeat will increase the frustration of Obama supporter who thought that the ascension of their man to the Oval Office would enable so much more change in the shape of American society than is apparently taking place so far.
Sources: Democrats introduce card-check, vow to move it, Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, March 10th, 2009
Labor Bill Faces Threat in Senate, Melanie Trottman and Brody Mullins, Wall Street Journal, March 9th, 2009