The New York Times, Democrats Cut Labor Provision Unions Sought, is reporting that a compromise that drops card check in return for 5 day quickie elections now has the support of 60 senators, enough to ensure passage. Although all details are not being released, the hint is that binding arbitration is still included and there may also be equal access provisions to allow unions to campaign on an employer’s premises.
If this pans out, it will be by far the most dramatic change in labor law since I took Professor Jerre Williams labor law course at the University of Texas Law School in the fall of 1973. And if it does include binding arbitration for first contracts, it will be a total revamping of the underlying principles of American labor law. Unfortunately, the last part has received relatively little attention.
One of the most interesting aspects is the immediate reaction of some from organized labor. Jonathan Tasini, who is a passionate advocate for employees at his Working Life blog is disgusted:
“Card check” was the the thing that the bill was about–or so we heard for lo these many months. Now, it’s left to the labor movement to explain why what will be left is good enough. That will be an interesting exercise.
We could also admit two things. One, when it comes right down to it, the kind of people labor supports in the Democratic Party are not reliable when it comes down to a fight-or-die moment for workers. Second, the strategy to pass the bill was an insiders game that never engaged the public, partly because we left the campaign in the hands of some people who are entirely clueless about talking to anyone but themselves.
Another option is for some people in the labor movement to decide that maybe it’s worth saying, “to hell with you all” and come up with a better organizing and political strategy that does not rest on relying on people who will sell us out in a heart beat.
More interesting to me was a ‘tweet’ from SEIU President Andy Stern, “we expect a vote in the bill or by amendment on majority sign-up in both houses of Congress.” EFCA Compromise? at TPM, which follows that “clearly this compromise won’t go down without several spoons full of sugar. “
The fact that Stern, who clearly knows the political reality, is making such a comment brings out the cynical fear that what is happening is what many in the business community feared all along. Card check was a stalking horse all along. The rejection of card check is going to be pitched as standing up to organized labor, and to aid in that perception many in organized labor (who secretly are ecstatic with what now seems within their grasp) berate the Democrats for selling them out.
Feeling victory based on the outcry of their opponents, many in the business community whose opposition was focused primarily on the card check provision will think that their mission has been accomplished and turn to other matters.
And almost under the radar, American labor law will be fundamentally changed.
The other thing that adds fuel to that thought is organized labor’s desire to have a vote this month. Senate leaders are apparently of the opinion that it can’t be done until September. (I am not quite sure why the Senate would want to undergo two more months of battering on this issue, because if they think its been hot up till now, they have not seen anything yet.) If no vote is scheduled until September then it might all come unraveled even if on this particular day in July the votes are there.
Because this is literally about how the American workplace functions, all with an interest, should stay very much engaged.