Thursday’s Wall Street Journal reported that labor leaders met by phone to assess the impact of Wednesday’s election in Massachusetts. The loss of the crucial 60th Democratic vote in the Senate and another major election cycle in 2010 are certain to affect Labor’s legislative agenda, including its pursuit of the Employee Free Choice Act:
Tuesday’s win by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts dealt a blow to labor’s multiyear, multimillion dollar effort to put Democrats in the majority of the House and Senate. Labor officials viewed the 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate as essential for passing the organizing bill, which would benefit unions by shortening the time period before union-organizing elections, mandating arbitration of first contracts and boosting penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
The bill was already on shaky ground, due to strong opposition from business, Republicans and some moderate Democrats. Now some labor officials believe it’s doomed.
The article contains comment from IAM President Thomas Buffenbarger, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, and AFL-CIO officials. Amongst the most noteworthy, this remark by Buffenbarger:
Mr. Buffenbarger said he hoped Tuesday’s election would benefit unions in one way, by leading Congress to enact a jobs bill that could include pro-labor provisions, such as requirements that the government purchase items from American companies, including defense concerns where his union represents workers. "The lesson I hope the party takes is what this union has been yelling about for the last three years, jobs," he said.
The White House has been eager to use other regulatory methods to facilitate union organizing, dating back to its earliest Executive Orders almost one year ago. As a Senator in the 110th Congress, President Obama was one of three co-sponsors of the Patriot Employers Act (S. 1945) which would have provided tax benefits for American employers who met a number of requirements, including observing "neutrality" during employee organizing drives. The prospect that elements of EFCA find their way into other legislative, administrative or executive vehicles is very real if the legislature concludes that 2010 is not the time to pursue the bill.