Republicans are getting ready for a fight on “card check” — the measure that would dispense with secret ballots in union elections and then allow a government mediator to set wages and working terms and conditions if the parties couldn’t make a deal in thirty days. It’s the sort of fight that will engage the conservative base and put wavering Republicans including Sen. Arlen Specter on the hot seat.
Republicans got a couple of lucky breaks on this one. First, the auto bailout played out before our eyes. More Americans than one would have thought possible now understand how a union can price a business out of existence and then, even in the face of bankruptcy, be unwilling to step up to the plate to save their own members’ jobs. You can almost see the ad now: “What Big Labor did to the auto industry, they will do to the entire American economy.”
Then, in the Blagojevich scandal, we have Andy Stern of the SEIU discussing who could be tapped for U.S. Senator. We’ll have to see if the story ended there, but even if Stern did nothing more, it was a timely reminder of the closenes and co-dependent relationship between Big Labor and the Democratic Party.
In the face of all this we’ll have the biggest fight in a generation over the power and influence of Big Labor. Is New Politics just forking over favors to the guys who helped throw the guys out? It sure would seem that way if the to-do list for the first year includes giving Big Labor card check — their long-hoped-for prize, which would be a mega-boost to organizing. That, by the way, would fill the union coffers with more dues and in turn bolster the campaign kitty of many Democratic politicians.
It will be an interesting fight if, despite these developments, the Obama administration decides to use its political capital on the card check. Perhaps these events will embolden the Obama team to tell their labor allies that “It’s just not a good time.” It really isn’t — unless you’re itching for a knock-down-drag-out-stop-the-Senate-in-its-tracks sort of donnybrook that will make immigration reform look like a walk in the park.