Philly.com ran a story on Sunday detailing US Senator Arlen Specter’s flips and flops dealing with the issue of the Employee Free Choice Act also known as Card Check. The aim of the legislation is to make it easier to form a union by allowing for the elimination of secret ballot voting and placing a mandatory biding arbitration provision into play that will require a contract within a few months from the original vote.
The bill is a favorite of Big Labor for obvious reasons. By allowing the card check system to be in place instead of a true secret ballot, workers votes essentially become public. Not many will likely try to oppose a union if union organizers and co-workers will all be aware of how they voted. This does create the potential for some serious intimidation at the workplace from both the pro and anti-union folks.
Additionally, the bill includes a provision to allow binding arbitration once the above mentioned voted has been cast. What this means is that if, after a short period of time, a contract cannot be agreed to between the employer and employees a labor department representative will enter the workplace and set the contract for them. Typically, a union contract includes wages, benefits, sick time provisions, working conditions and the like. The government bureaucrat would set all of these when they set the contract and they would do so without the input of either the employees or the employers.
You can see why this bill is a little tough to swallow by anyone seeking election or re-election shortly after this vote. Big Labor is trying to push this legislation to build their ranks and thus, their coffers. Employers fear this legislation because they don’t want government bureaucrats entering their private workplace and setting up contracts. Ultimately, they will have to foot the bill for the bureaucrat’s decisions.
Big Labor argues that without the arbitration provision, contracts languish and duly elected unions aren’t covered by contractual language. Some have gone as long as two years trying to work out a contract.
Both labor and job creators are forces to be reckoned with in politics and they have power they can regularly bring to bear on elected officials that don’t vote the way they want them to. This tug of war has caught Arlen Specter in the middle.
Essentially, Arlen Specter was for the bill before he was against it but now he might be for it. In 2007, Specter voted to allow the debate on the bill to move forward. In March, he left the impression that he was against it. Afterwards, he switched parties to become a Democrat. If he didn’t need labor before, he sure does now. In that vein, he is working to craft some kind of compromise bill. Specter also tried to clarify his position (and refute the Philly article) in a letter to the editor. You can find it here.
The bill is still moving, albeit slowly.
A recent poll found that the majority (55%-29%) of Pennsylvanians are against Card Check becoming law.