Is Obama committed to fighting for unions?

Barack Obama promised during his presidential campaign to "finally make the Employee Free Choice Act the law of the land."

So why did I read this in today's Washington Post?

The president-elect also gave his support for legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize, but he said there may be other ways to achieve the same goal without angering businesses. And while many Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to see a quick vote on that bill, he indicated no desire to rush into the contentious issue.

"If we're 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 I just mentioned," he said. "Let's see what the legislative docket looks like."

Marc Ambinder has the exact wording of Obama's answer, which the Washington Post paraphrased.

A lot of labor unions backed Obama during the primaries, and even more backed him during the general election campaign. Unions were there for Obama when he needed them. Now, they need him to follow through on his promise.

This diary by TomP lays out the very strong case for passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Why do we need to dance around looking for some way to help unions without angering businesses? Obama won the election and has high approval ratings. Democrats enlarged their Congressional majorities. Now is the time for the president to spend his political capital on getting good laws through Congress.

Setting the policy merits aside for the moment, this is a poor negotiating strategy.

By announcing before taking office that his goal is to help unions without arousing intense opposition from businesses, Obama has just given the business lobby every incentive to raise hell about even the most innocuous bill to support workers' rights.

He should not have telegraphed that he is willing to sacrifice the Employee Free Choice Act if necessary. You never announce before negotiations begin what concessions you are willing to make. (For more on Obama's negotiating strategy so far, read this diary by bruh3.)

In any event, there isn't going to be some magical bill that would make it significantly easier for workers to organize, but which the business lobby would take in stride. They will fight every bill perceived as pro-labor, and they will claim that it will cost jobs, just like they fought any number of good laws, from minimum wage increases to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Here's hoping that incoming Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (a passionate supporter of the EFCA) will be able to strengthen Obama's resolve to fight for this bill.

By the way, American Rights at Work just launched a major tv advertising campaign in support of the EFCA and has a petition you can sign if you care about this issue.

There's more...

Labor Unions Want Overturn of Prop 8

50 labor unions (according to the Sacromento Bee) will file an amicus brief on Friday asking the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8.

The list is a who's who of labor unions including the AFL-CIO, SEIU and Teamsters.

"It was United Health Workers-West President Sal Rosselli who explained why labor is interested in seeing the measure overturned:

  There are fundamental constitutional rights that cannot be abolished by ballot initiative. Our organizations stand for fairness and equality for working people--not only in the workplace but in all aspects of society. Today we are standing up for all California families in asking the court to overturn..."

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One Leg Raised on the Bush-Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda

In an incisive 2,500 word analysis, award-winning journalist and university professor Walter Brasch reviews eight years of Republican spin and propaganda, all wrapped up in a letter sent by the Republican National Committee.

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The Media Auto Know Better: Fueling Anti-Union Fires

Many in the mass media, in an attenpt to try to explain the "why" of America's economic problems have looked in the wrong area. In this insightful column, award-winning journalist Walter Brasch explains why the workers and their unions are not the problem.

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John Edwards: From Humble Roots to Fighting for All Americans

"Today the Democratic Party stands between two great forces."

On one side stand the corporate interests of the nation, its moneyed institutions, its aggregations of wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless.... On the other side stands the unnumbered throng which gave a name to the Democratic Party and for which it has presumed to speak. Work-worn and dustbegrimed, they make their mute appeal, and too often find their cry for help beat in vain against the outer walls.

Above is such an accurate description of what our party and our nation struggles against: the "moneyed institutions, its aggregations of wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant compassionless..." Yet, that appeal to Populism was not written in recent times.

In fact, those words were written in 1893. Recently quoted in the article "The Way Down South," by Bob Moser, they are the words of  33-year-old William Jennings Bryan, "the South's favorite `prairie populist,' shaking the rafters on Capitol Hill in 1893."

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