Washington press continues to report that U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is intent on forcing a vote on the Employee Free Choice Act, the union-backed legislation to restore some balance to labor negotiations.
If Arkansas senators' votes are neeed, fuhgeddaboudit. Paul Barton checked in today and again got the boilerplate our senators have been passing out. They'll be standing with their friends, of course. But closer to the ones with the big wallets than the others.
By Paul Barton
WASHINGTON – Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin continues to promise that he will bring the Employees Free Choice Act – popularly known as “card check” – to the Senate floor in July after Al Franken of Minnesota is sworn in as the 60th Democratic senator.
That’s according to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper and the Web site laborpains.org.
There continues to be speculation there and in other places that Harkin may have come up with a way to get Arkansas’ two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, on board.
So the Arkansas Times put in requests late last week and this week to both senators to see if anything has changed. Neither statement should get unions too excited.
Pryor said through a spokesman: “The Employee Free Choice Act is dead, and I am not working on a compromise to this bill. However, I continue to meet with business, labor and my colleagues to discuss the potential for common ground to make sure the process for forming a union is fair for workers and employers. This is an effort to bring new ideas to the table, but there is no draft and there remains a lot of distance between the various parties.”
Lincoln’s office said this week she stands by her statements from earlier. Her priorities are still “job creation, health care reform, energy reform, investment in public education and tax cuts for middle class working familes.” And she repeated: “I consider both the labor and the business communities to be my friends. However, now that we need all hands on deck, including business and labor, to get our economy moving again, this issue is dividing us.” But, she continued to emphasize, she still can’t support the bill “in its current form,” or an effort to bring to it to the floor in its original form. Lastly, Lincoln said again, “I will consider alternatives that have the support of both business and labor but my pledge today is to focus my full attention on the priorities I have mentioned that affect every working family in Arkansas.”
And EFCA, her statement made clear, is still not on that priority list.
Labor sees the bill as making it easier for workers at a site to unionize by simply checking off on a card their preference to do so rather going through an election, they say, that allows companies to intimidate workers. Employers say union votes should be done through the honored American tradition of secret ballots as before.
But even after a union wins an election big business can drag its feet in negotiating a contract. That’s why many labor advocates say the real emphasis should be on an arbitration process that would keep business from dragging its feet if workers vote to unionize.