Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

Bumped from the diaries -- Jonathan... You can check out the vote here. In short, 13 GOPers voted in favor of the measure (11 blue staters, 2 red staters [including Don Young of Alaska, of all people?]) while two Dems (Gene Taylor of MS and Dan Boren of OK) voted against it.

Update [2007-3-1 16:21:47 by Nancy Scola]: H.R. 800 just passed the House, 241-185.

Ezra's absolutely right. And the end of the day, the House vote on the Employee Free Choice Act comes down to simply, which side are you on?

It's a bit uncomfortable for me to frame things as "you're either with us or against us." But the more you dive into this fight, the more it's perfectly clear that those are the real terms of this debate. Opponents of card check -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers -- have been arguing for months that their opposition is based in the American worker's sacred right to a secret ballot. Card check means that the scary, sweat-inducing, union bosses will intimidate workers into doing something they don't want to do. The strength of an argument like that is that, on its face, it makes some sense. It's emotionally appealing. And you can send around funny cartoons to make your point:



But here's where you have to vigorously shake your head clear, and remember that today's debate on Capitol Hill over card check just isn't about those things. History and recent events leave no doubt that there are those among us who really don't like unions. There are national interests committed to ripping the heart out of the labor movement. They want, in the words of Grover Norquist, "to crush labor as a political entity" and eliminate unions. That's all that this debate is about. That's it. There are anti-union interest groups, union-busting law firms, there's an industry in this country of trying to cut the legs out from the labor movement. It's an undeniable part of the American political landscape. It has been as long as there have been unions.

From where I'm standing, the union movement is a fairly remarkable human experiment. In America alone, millions of people have harnessed the collective strengths of their co-workers to give them all better lives. Amazing, really. But when we got into the human experiment this big, we had to have know that nothing is going to work out perfectly. Especially when we're dealing with the economic lives of millions of human animals, there's something "wrong" that can be pointed out with every step taken. We've seen anti-union interests go after Davis-Bacon, suspending it after Hurricane Katrina. What's wrong with Davis-Bacon? It's racist. Federal employees have long been unionized, so why not allow 170,000 employees to keep their union rights as they get shifted over to the Department of Homeland Security? Puts America at risk.

In a perfect world, what would happen is that every American worker would be a fully-educated consumer about the risks and rewards of unionizing. Then the great god of employer-employee relations -- maybe even the NLRB -- would divine the collective will of workers and either hand them union cards or not. But that ain't gonna happen any time soon. H.R. 800 doesn't get us there. But politics is the art of the possible, and card check is a tool within our grasps that gets us several steps closer to that world. We're suckers if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Now, I acknowledge that I am sucking on the AFL-CIO teat on card check. They're paying me for my work around the legislatively prospects of the Employee Free Choice Act. Why would I do that? -- I'm not much of a joiner by nature. I don't really like big groups, and don't care much for party labels. I didn't much like presidential politics because I was uncomfortable subsuming my will to one single candidate like that. I agreed to ally myself with the AFL on this bill because I did some reading (including Thomas Geoghagen's book), talked to some folks, and came to two conclusions: 1) the labor movement has done a remarkable amount of good, helping to build the working and middle classes in America, and 2) I could take the route of keeping a polite distance from organized labor and their battles -- being supportive here and tut-tutting their missteps there. Or I could jump into the fight.

Sometimes in life you just have to pick a side.

Tags: card check, Employee Free Choice Act, labor movement, union organizing (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

No Senate action yet?

With 233 cosponsors, surely even the Lioness can't miss with this in the House! (Kidding. Not really.)

There still is no companion bill in the Senate though, according to THOMAS. In the 109th, S 842 got 44 cosponsors - so cloture isn't entirely in the realms of fantasy.

Especially if Harry follows the precedent Pelosi is setting with the Iraq supplemental bill, and offers sweeteners to bribe the fence-sitters. (What would they be, I wonder?)

I'd rather like to know how the count is looking, though.

by skeptic06 2007-03-01 11:08AM | 0 recs
JTA...

The Education Committee report (60pp) for HR 800 is worth getting in the (5MB) PDF version - loadsa footnotes which, in the HTML, give me a headache.

by skeptic06 2007-03-01 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: No Senate action yet?

Between this, Iraq, the minimum wage bill (and I think the stem cell bill-- has ANY part of the "100 hours" agenda passed the Senate yet?)... it's increasingly starting to seem like the "do-something congress" only exists in one of Congress' two chambers.

I'm starting to wonder what exactly the 110th congress Democrats have to do to convince voters that they've done a good job and need their majority in 2008 not just retained but expanded. The kinds of things the house has been doing so far are surely enough; the Democrats can point at their House accomplishments and say, look, this may not be much, but it's positive and it's something, reelect us and we can do more. This is even the case if everything the House does gets vetoed; then the Democrats can point at the accomplishments and say, look what we could have done if only Bush weren't in power, think what we could do with a different President in 2008. But what they can't so much do is trumpet their house accomplishments as meaning something if all of those accomplishments then die in the Senate, which the Democrats control! "Well, we could have done all this stuff if we had 60 senators instead of 50" is both a confusing and a difficult sell, and won't work if the American public perceives-- as does often seem to be the case at this point-- that the holdup wasn't just the Senate Republicans, but the Senate Democrats as well.

The Senate is both a slower body and one where the Democrats have less power, and it's only just now March. But the amount of time in this legislative season is not unlimited, and before it's over the Democrats have to justify their control of congress with some sort of progress. If they're going to be the "do-something congress", they need to DO SOMETHING. The Senate Democrats at some point are going to have to demonstrate they're willing to do what it takes to get things done...

by Silent sound 2007-03-01 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: No Senate action yet?

when everything the democratic senate does gets fillabustered, its kind of difficult.

The only ones "do nothing" will stick on is the Republicans. You'll see two years of them trying to stop everything the Democrats try. And they will pay for it in 2008.

by okamichan13 2007-03-01 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: No Senate action yet?

The Senate is going to have to schedule cloture votes on all of these bills.  It will force our moderate Dems on the record, even for no legislative outcome, which I know the leadership hates doing.  But there will be no other way to get 50 D votes for and 50 R votes against and say "see, look, Ds would pass this if you gave us the chance."

The Senate Ds, even Landrieu and Tim Johnson and Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor and the rest, are gonna have to go on record on all this 100-hour stuff and probably more (card check may be too obscure; labor will get the point without needing a rollcall).  There's no other way to clearly demonstrate that this all would have passed the Senate but for the Rs.  And you're right, just saying "well, we passed it in the House!" isn't going to cut it, and saying "well, we didn't even force a vote in the Senate cause we knew we'd lose" will fail to impress.

by texas dem 2007-03-02 02:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

This government had an idea
And parliament made it law
It seems like it's illegal
To fight for the union any more

Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on
Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on

We went out to join the picket line
For together we cannot fail
We got stopped by police at the county line
They said, "Go home boys or you're going to jail"

Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on
Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on

It's hard to explain to a crying child
Why her Daddy can't go back
So the family suffer
But it hurts me more
To hear a scab say Sod you Jack

Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on
Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on

I'm bound to follow my conscience
And do whatever I can
But it'll take much more than the union law
To knock the fight out of a working man

Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on
Which side are you on, boys
Which side are you on

by andy k 2007-03-01 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

This is a very important win. Congrats to all folks at the AFL, American Rights at Work, and international labor unios for months of hard work.

by Shmendrick 2007-03-01 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

Edwards statement on passing of card check:

http://johnedwards.com/news/headlines/20 070301-cardcheck/

Chapel Hill, North Carolina -- Senator John Edwards released the following statement today, applauding the passage of card check neutrality legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Today is a victory for working men and women across the country. Speaker Pelosi and 241 members of the House did the right thing by standing up for working Americans and passing this bill.

"Organized labor has been the most important anti-poverty movement in American history -- strengthening the middle class and providing good-paying jobs for millions of Americans. We need to make it easier for workers to organize themselves into unions. If a Republican can join the Republican Party by signing their name to a card, any worker in America ought to be able to join a union by doing exactly the same thing.

"By protecting a worker's right to join a union, we give more Americans the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class, which is why I have been all over this country the past few years, working with over 20 national unions to organize thousands of workers, walking picket lines and speaking out in support of workers' rights.

"I encourage the Senate to pass this legislation and hope this is just the beginning of a renewed effort in our country to protect working Americans and strengthen organized labor."

by okamichan13 2007-03-01 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

Cuellar voted for EFCA?

by jsnhsr 2007-03-01 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

Oh woe is me -- another conspiracy?  

How about the union leaders priced the workers out of the market -- thus there are fewer of them.

But, of course, when we reach glorious socialism, all will be well -- we can all be poor together, except, of course, our idiot popinjay leaders.

by Fourpointoh 2007-03-01 01:57PM | 0 recs
Oh that's a bunch of crap

I don't have to pick sides at all, it's perfectly reasonable to judge each issue on the merits, regardless of who supports what. In fact, that's the only reasonable way to approach things.

by delmoi 2007-03-01 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh that's a bunch of crap

I mean, I think she's saying that in the big picture unions are good, so even if card check for small reasons is not so good, well, if it helps unions than it's good in the big picture anyway.

If you get in the habit of reasoning like that you can get into real trouble.  Like, DeLay trouble (if it helps the GOP, it must be good).

And now I'm even more nervous about card check than I was before.  But, unions delivered in 06 and this is what they want.  We'll see how it goes I guess.

Also there's no way this gets cloture in the Senate.  I wonder if it even comes for a vote.

by texas dem 2007-03-02 02:35AM | 0 recs
Ah The Irony

That cartoon is great; the irony couldn't be clearer. Of course, if you think about it for half a minute, you realize that the realistic picture is exactly the same except the buttons the lurking guys are wearing say "Management" or "Your boss". After all, NLRB elections are generally held on the worksite. Anyone who is fooled by the "pretend its the other guy, not the bosses who are doing all the intimidating" trick here really needs to check their head.

Just ask yourself: if a union wanted to pressure nonunionized workers, what leverage do they have? What kind of reprisals are they in fact in a position to levy? What's so scary about an association representing workers, except for rightwing media stereotypes?

Then, on the other hand: what leverage would workers' bosses have, what power do they have to influence workers' daily lives, to make those lives difficult if they don't toe the line, what do they have to threaten workers with that they could take away, usually with impunity, if workers don't do what they're told? Do you even have to do more than ask these questions to see the incredible disparity?

Imagine, in the Soviet Union, where you have a secret ballot election, but the opposition side isn't allowed to organize freely. Everybody knows that if you don't actively support the party bosses' line -- much less speak out openly against it -- you'll get trouble down the line. And that means everyone is scared, and so you figure that nobody else will vote against it, and you don't want to be the one to stick your neck out. And so things never change -- does anyone think those ballots are a good reflection of what people really want, even if they're "secret" ballots? Of course not. In the face of ineliminable and radically unfair power asymetries, you need to stop the employers from bringing that power to bear to skew elections -- so when workers sign a card saying the want a union, why don't we just believe them? (Works fine in Canada, btw.)

Frankly, it's a no-brainer.

by troubleshooter 2007-03-01 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Unions Don't Support Ameican Workers

The Unions today, are attempting to support ILLEGAL ALIENS instead of the American Worker!!!!!

by DfD 2007-03-01 03:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Card Check Comes Down to Picking Sides

Why do people keep dropping the CIO from AFL-CIO? They're the good part!

by CT student 2007-03-01 06:18PM | 0 recs

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