Obama Flexible On Employee Free Choice Act

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, Legislation, Unions

This one is sure to ruffle some feathers, but Obama is signaling that he’s more than willing to find common ground on this issue and I have to say it’s a relief to hear. Especially since this seems to be the last thing we should be focusing on right now.

From Ambinder:

Wash Post: The Employee Free Choice Act – a timing question and a substance question: in terms of timing how quickly would you like to see it brought up? Would you like to see it brought up in your first year? In terms of substance, the bills that you talked about in your floor statement on the Employee Free Choice Act problems with bullying of [inaudible] people want to join unions. Is card check the only solution? Or are you open to considering other solutions that might shorten the time?

Obama: I think I think that is a fair question and a good one.

Here’s my basic principal that wages and incomes have flatlined over the last decade. That part of that has to do with forces that are beyond everybody’s control: globalization, technology and so forth. Part of it has to do with workers have very little leverage and that larger and larger shares of our productivity go to the top and not to the middle or the bottom. I think unions serve an important role in that. I think that the way the Bush Administration managed the Department of Labor, the NLRB, and a host of other aspects of labor management relations put the thumb too heavily against unions. I want to lift that thumb. There are going to be steps that we can take other than the Employee Free Choice Act that will make a difference there.

I think the basic principal of making it easier and fairer for workers who want to join a union, join a union is important. And the basic outline of the Employee Fair Choice are ones that I agree with. But I will certainly listen to all parties involved including from labor and the business community which I know considers this to be the devil incarnate. I will listen to parties involved and see if there are ways that we can bring those parties together and restore some balance.

You know, now if the business community’s argument against the Employee Free Choice Act is simply that it will make it easier for people to join unions and we think that is damaging to the economy then they probably won’t get too far with me. If their arguments are we think there are more elegant ways of doing this or here are some modifications or tweaks to the general concept that we would like to see. Then I think that’s a conversation that not only myself but folks in labor would be willing to have. But, so that’s the general approach that I am interested in taking. But in terms of time table, if we are losing half a million jobs a month then there are no jobs to unionize. So my focus first is on those key economic priority items that I just mentioned.

I think he’s sending a pretty clear message to Democratic lawmakers to not demagogue this issue, especially since there are more important things to do. And honestly, I know Dems are trying to front load this legislative season with all of the pet projects they’ve had on the back burner for 8 years, but this one seems like it could easily be defeated…so why now?

More as it develops…


This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2009 and is filed under Barack, Legislation, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Obama Flexible On Employee Free Choice Act”

  1. Jim S Says:

    You know, now if the business community’s argument against the Employee Free Choice Act is simply that it will make it easier for people to join unions and we think that is damaging to the economy then they probably won’t get too far with me.

    Is there anyone who doesn’t know that this is the real reason for every argument they make?

  2. woody Says:

    You sure are reasonable with somebody else’s ability to organize for justice and fairness…Wouldn’t want to CHANGE the balance of power any at all, would we? Wouldn’t be “prudent.”

    Gotta LUV such flexibility. Is this an instance of soi-desant “post-partisanship?”

    I call it shoving a feces-encrusted thumb in the eye of your most loyal and expectant (and I don’t mean me) constituency.

    What make anyone think that if Obama/Dims cannot get this through with the political capital tey now possess, they will be able to do so later with inevitably LESS political capital to expend? This is a cave-in, pure and simple.

    That I am not surprised does not mean that I cannot still be outraged.

  3. wj Says:

    The real problem, it seems to me, is not that it makes it easier for people to join unions. It is that it makes it easier to pressure people to join unions. If all they asked for was a card check which would require a vote on whether or not to join the union, that would be real hard to oppose. But that isn’t what this proposal does now, is it?

    And that is the valid argument against this proposal. Whether the people fighting against it actually think to make it or not.

  4. Nix Says:

    Your joking of course?

    There is a need right now because the employers are cutting wages to line their own pockets. There is mistreatment of workers from Bush’s gutting of OSHA that is happening right now. That is why it is on the front burner they are doing what their constituents want. Which I may be mistake, but I thought that was the job of elected officials, to you know, do what the people that voted for them wanted.

  5. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Obama didn’t really concede anything. He said he supports it, but that he would listen to arguments against it.

    He’s a thoughtful guy. He’s supposed to consider all sides of a case before he makes a decision. that’s all he actually said he’d do.

    BTW, Unions have good reason to push this now. After the first 100 days presidents have historically had very little success at their domestic policy initiatives.

    The real problem, it seems to me, is not that it makes it easier for people to join unions. It is that it makes it easier to pressure people to join unions. If all they asked for was a card check which would require a vote on whether or not to join the union, that would be real hard to oppose. But that isn’t what this proposal does now, is it?

    The problem with your argument is that Card check has been implemented in other places. And there has never, ever, ever, been a single documented case of a union forcing a plant to unionize against it’s will.

    There’re very good reasons for that. Workers who don’t want to be the union are likely to a) elect anti-union officers, b) take advantage of “Right to Work” and not pay dues, etc. Besides the decertification process is exactly the same as the certification process. In practice it’s a lot easier — employers support decertification. Which means corporate security guards can protect anti-union workers from union intimidation.

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