Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Will Obama Get An Opportunity To Sign The Employee Free Choice Act?


Forget Kansas; what's the matter with Arkansas?

The story-- at least part wishful thinking-- in today's Wall Street Journal started ominously: "Key Senate Democrats are wavering in their support of legislation that would give more power to labor unions, dealing a setback to labor's top priority as businesses warn of the damage the bill would cause."
At least six Senators who have voted to move forward with the so-called card-check proposal, including one Republican, now say they are opposed or not sure-- an indication that Senate Democratic leaders are short of the 60 votes they need for approval.

The legislation is divisive and distracting, said Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in an interview Monday. The Democratic lawmaker, who was previously seen as a supporter, said the Senate should focus on creating jobs and improving the U.S. economy. "I have 90,000 Arkansans who need a job, that's my No. 1 priority," she said. The legislation, she said, would be "divisive and we don't need that right now. We need to focus on the things that are more important."

Sen. Lincoln is one of several moderate Democrats expressing doubts about the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill would allow unions to organize workers without a secret ballot, giving employees the power to organize by simply signing cards agreeing to join. A second provision would give federal arbitrators power to impose contract terms on companies that fail to reach negotiated agreements with unions. Both provisions are strongly opposed by business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor are among the Democratic lawmakers who have backed off their previous support.

...Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is another key member who is wavering. Though he voted with Democrats in 2007, he now says, "I'm still thinking about it." He added, "I'm being lobbied on it very, very heavily."

It's well known on K Street and throughout Washington that Specter, Landrieu and the two schlubs from Arkansas are 4 of the Senate's worst money-grubbing, stand-for-nothing hacks. Specter has taken more than a million dollars in "donations" from lobbyists, from the Insurance Industry, from the Real Estate Industry, from Wall Street, and from Big Pharma. Although few senators have sucked up legalized bribes as voraciously as Specter, Landrieu has done pretty well for herself and has taken huge sums from Big Oil, Real Estate, lobbyists, Wall Street and Big Pharma. The two sad sacks from Arkansas don't have the kind of clout that either of the other two crooks do but both have managed nicely. Wall Street has bestowed $462,490 on Lincoln and $373,090 on Pryor; lobbyists gave Lincoln $376,771 and $321,009 to Pryor; Big Insurance gave Lincoln $440,030 and Pryor $205,690; Big Oil gave Lincoln $268,375 and Pryor $137,900; and BigPharma donated $386,749 to Lincoln and $92,650 to Pryor. This morning over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher asks the question many have asked before her... and for many years: Who owns Blanche Lincoln?
Today Citigroup lowered its rating on Wal-Mart from a buy to a hold because of the Employee Free Choice Act, "citing concern that legislation intended to make it easier for employees to unionize would raise the retail giant's labor costs and hurt its competitiveness."

This is startling for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that they're downgrading the stock based on an assumption that a piece of legislation will pass that hasn't even been introduced yet.

The Citigroup analyst, Debora Weinswig, said Employee Free Choice (EFCA) "could be a significant drag to earnings."

It's hard to view this as anything other than a reckless and overt political act on the part of a company, Citigroup, that has made stupendously bad business decisions with dire economic consequences necessitating billions in taxpayer bailouts, at a time when the market can ill-afford it.

...Blanche Lincoln has been one of the wobbly Senate votes on Employee Free Choice, and she's pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of Wal-mart. One has to wonder if this isn't an overt attempt to influence her vote.

EFCA was re-introduced into both houses of Congress today. In 2007, when the Senate last took up the House-passed Employee Free Choice Act, not only did these four vote for it, it had a majority in the Senate. That wasn't enough because Mitch McConnell led a filibuster against organized labor-- the irony of his "wife" being the Secretary of Labor at the time, lost on no one. The Democrats needed 60 votes but only wound up with 51, although one of the bill co-sponsors, Tim Johnson (D-SD) was in the hospital and unable to vote. This year, the Republican Party has put forward a campaign of exhaustive and frivolous challenges to EFCA supporter Al Franken and he may not be allowed to take his seat in time for the crucial vote. Nevertheless, there are 8 right-wing Republican union-bashers who were either defeated or retired in 2008-- Wayne Allard (CO), Norm Coleman (MN), Elizabeth Dole (NC), Pete Domenici (NM), Gordon Smith (OR), Ted Stevens (AK), John Sununu (NH) and John Warner (VA)-- all of whom opposed Employee Free Choice. Four of them have been replaced by Democrats who are now co-sponsors of the bill, Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The other Democratic replacements have all indicated that they would also vote for the bill.

So... if Blanche Lincoln intends to remain a Democrat in her quest for easy re-election, and doesn't duck out, and if Snarlin' Arlen stands his ground and doesn't allow Club For Growth neo-fascists to bully him, and if Al Franken is finally allowed to take his seat (in time), Democrats should be able to shut down the de facto filibuster McConnell is planning again-- even without votes from other Republicans. Voinovich, for example, who is retiring and no longer has anything to fear from the far right, could vote for the hard-hit working families in his state. Olympia Snowe is already a target of the bullies and loons of his party and in very pro-union Maine she would make points for standing with working families at this rough juncture.

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