Wednesday, May 6, 2009

4th and long for team EFCA

The Employee Free Choice Act ("EFCA") is proving to be the ultimate pigskin in a game of political football! Two years ago, with President Bush promising a veto if EFCA ever landed on his desk, members of the House of Representatives (which passed the bill) and of the Senate (which didn't pass the bill) could proclaim their support of EFCA with absolutely no fear the bill would actually become law. Many elected officials in both Houses of Congress who supported the bill received funding from and the backing of Big Labor in being re-elected. Of particular note in this category of clever politicians is Mark Pryor, Democrat Senator from Arkansas. Senator Pryor was a co-sponsor of EFCA last time around, along with then-Senator, now President, Barack Obama. Senator Pryor continued to voice his support for EFCA during the 2008 election cycle, which helped him avoid any serious challengers and to enjoy union support and dollars. Now, with a fresh six-year term under his belt, Senator Pryor has assumed a more moderate position. And he is in good company.

President Obama, unlike his predecessor, has pledged to sign EFCA into law if it is approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. This fact, along with a slowed economy, has made for rougher sailing for EFCA in 2009 than it faced in 2007.

The aspect of EFCA considered most offensive is the elimination of the secret-ballot election. As bad (or worse) to employers is the arbitration provision that would allow an arbitrator to impose a collective bargaining agreement for a two year period for the parties. The latter would effectively put an end to over 80 years of labor law in which the parties were left to their own devices when drafting a labor contract.

EFCA once seemed like a sure thing, with the Senate posing a potential obstacle to passage of the law. Now, some have gone so far as to declare it dead for the current session of Congress. We believe the unions will huddle up and emerge with a fourth quarter strategy designed to put them in a position to score a few points in this game of political football. We see compromise on the horizon that will win over key figures such as Senator Arlen Specter (R - Pa.). Because if EFCA is passed in some form, even a weaker version than hoped, it can be amended later if need be . . . particularly if the political winds continue to blow in the Democrats' favor!

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