Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holding the match

Back on November 23 and also earlier, I wrote about the political dilemma facing the new administration in Washington concerning how hard the new President should push for the so-called Employee Free Choice Act given the controversy that bill will engender.

The issue is exemplified again in a Steve Early op-ed this past weekend, entitled "Unions to Obama: Don't Abandon Us." Those strongly in favor of EFCA are trying to put pressure on the President even before his term of office begins. Chances are they are coordinating their efforts in articles like Mr. Early's and in other ways. Meanwhile, opponents are likewise trying to flex their political influence on this topic and have their point of view heard.

As many have noted, this is a tough call for a President-elect who made EFCA part of his platform and received hundreds of millions of dollars in union support during the election, plus the efforts of thousands of union members on the streets and at the polls. It is a tough call because secret ballot elections are a pillar of the American system, and it is hard to explain to the general public why you would want to eliminate them in the case of certifying unions. The election of Mr. Obama himself provides the most superb example of the power and wisdom of secret ballots. The last thing Mr. Obama needs is a divisive issue while he attempts to gain a consensus on other, more critical pieces of legislation.

This is one of the most interesting political dramas we will watch for the new administration. The next flash point will be when Mr. Obama designates his Secretary of Labor. At the press conference, there will be the question: "Mr. President-elect, will EFCA be your priority and that of your newly designated Secretary in your first 100 days?" His answer could light a tinderbox.


Anonymous said...

An article in the Washington Post yesterday mentioned that this issue could become Obama's analogous issue to the "gays in the military" issue that got Clinton off on the wrong foot. They said it would be an epic political battle. If I were him, I would claim economic emergency and defer it till more urgent issues are in hand, but you never know how politicians are going to operate.


Anonymous said...

Here's the article:

e-Patient Dave said...

Completely agreed, nonlocal. Economic emergency - truer words were never said.

My wife's a part-time veterinarian, and throughout her career a bellwether of the economy has been pet care appointments. (When times get tough, one of the first unpleasant belts to get tightened is caring for the pets.) Well, she got called yesterday with the news that there is no work for her the rest of this week - no appointments at all.

So, our household goes on the list of those currently affected by the downturn.

And, btw, I would like to KILL all the economists who finally declared (last week!) that there's a recession going on. I'm sure if economists existed in Shakespeare's day, he'd have gone after them before "all the lawyers"!

It's about to get more unpretty, people.

Anonymous said...

Careful, your blogger is a trained economist . . . who can easily delete inappropriate comments.

e-Patient Dave said...

> trained economist

Oxymoron alert. :)

> delete inappropriate comments

Ah, but mine is appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Keep your eyes peeled as to how EFCA plays out in the auto bailout.
David Bonior is carrying the UAW's water on this and, considering all the confusion on these rescue missions, it could sneak into some legislation even before Obama takes office.

Anonymous said...

Or, one could peruse the picture on the front page of today's Wall St. Journal regarding Blagojevich and see what union's initials appear....


Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone referred to the SEIU and Blagojevich relationship. See the article here:

No surprise here!

-Adrienne Colburn

e-Patient Dave said...

Hey Rand, got your ears on? Got any comments on this text from the WSJ piece?

"Separately, the federal investigation cast a shadow over the Service Employees International Union, a fast-growing alliance of more than two million workers. Tuesday's complaint noted that Gov. Blagojevich spoke at least twice with an SEIU official to discuss a separate possible candidate for the vacant Illinois seat.

"The complaint says that in exchange for naming a Senate candidate seen as friendly to organized labor, Gov. Blagojevich discussed a deal to make him national director of the Change to Win federation, a six million member partnership that includes SEIU. The complaint doesn't say whether the union official came up with the offer or was open to it.

"An internal communication from the Illinois office of the SEIU, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, said the SEIU official was Tom Balanoff. The communication also said representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Mr. Balanoff's house at about 6 a.m. Tuesday, the same time that agents arrested Gov. Blagojevich. People close to the SEIU say Mr. Balanoff had flown to Denver on Monday evening, ahead of SEIU meetings Tuesday.

"Mr. Balanoff, contacted Wednesday, had no comment. His office issued a release Wednesday evening saying that he was cooperating with the federal investigation. The SEIU office in Washington said that it called the U.S. Attorney's office Tuesday morning and offered its full cooperation."

Hm, I'm guessing you'll say the FBI is in cahoots with BIDMC and the drunk doctors.