While the ongoing wrangling over healthcare legislation remains the major topic of the day, a few items regarding EFCA have found their way into the news cycle recently.
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), one of the most prominent Democrat critics of EFCA, is facing a primary challenge in her 2010 re-election bid. Her challenger, Lt. Governor Bill Halter* (D) is receiving substantial support in his primary effort from the S.E.I.U. and other labor unions. In a television ad released early this week, Senator Lincoln responds to an earlier spot by Halter, and directly takes on the issue of his union support:
(*Lest anyone miss the irony that a Senator viewed as having stopped EFCA in its tracks is running against someone named "Bill Halter," student columnist Daniel Clutchey cleverly noted it in this recent HuffPo hit piece.)
On the other hand, this week, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), another famous EFCA critic, received the endorsement of the S.E.I.U. in his primary contest against challenger Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA). In a recent endorsement, Bill George, the head of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO also stated regarding EFCA:
That first bill’s gone and consequently, it’s time to move forward. And Arlen Specter was very instrumental with other Senators getting an agreement.
This curious statement caused NAM’s ShopFloor.org astutely to ask:
We’ve heard a lot of discussion about a possible alternative-EFCA bill, but any proposal based on the fundamentally flawed EFCA would be devastating to employers and employees alike. If an agreement has been reached, why is nothing is available on it?
Back in September 2009, Senator Specter told the AFL-CIO that the Senate would pass a bill providing for quicker elections, mandatory interest arbitration and increased penalties against employers. On the heels of Specter’s announcement, however, Senate Democrats quickly distanced themselves from the notion that any such alternative proposal had been finalized. Mr. George’s recent proclamation may raise these questions once again.
Ironically, one year ago, while EFCA was still newly stalled in the Senate, it was Rep. Sestak who introduced alternative legislation, H.R. 1355, the National Labor Relations Modernization Act — which would provide mandatory arbtiration, increased penalties, and equal access to employees for unions prior to elections.
Finally, in today’s IndustryWeek, Jonathan Katz asks "Is EFCA’s Time Now?":
"Typically in an election year, landmark legislation does not get passed, because the congressmen and women are more concerned about holding seats than they are necessarily about putting their reputations on the line over controversial legislation," DRI’s [Reggie] Belcher says. "And EFCA is going to be controversial."
If the bill sees the light of day, it likely will be in a "watered-down form" that, for example, eliminates the card-check provision but shortens the current 42-day time period for secret-ballot elections to take place, Belcher predicts.
"That would be one way EFCA could be changed while still making union organizing easier," Belcher says. "And I think that is one of the goals of the Obama administration."
A companion piece "Obama Administration Pushing Its Labor Agenda — EFCA or No EFCA" outlines many of the other efforts by the White House to transform American labor law.