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April 10, 2013 / Paul Levy

Laboring in Washington

November 23, 2008, 8:47am

(1) The Obama team continues to pull in very able people for the new Administration. One announced last week is Patrick Gaspard, executive vice president of SEIU Local 1199, who will be the President’s Political Director. One of Mr. Gaspard’s tasks now will be to remember to work for the interests of his new boss, rather than his old organization — especially given the difficulty of persuading the public that eliminating secret ballots (through the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act”) as part of union certification drives is consistent with core American values.

See the items below to get a sense of how this issue is likely to be portrayed. If you were the new President, would you make this a legislative priority? The new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is going to have thread this needle very, very carefully or he will jeopardize lots of other priority measures. Don’t you think it is interesting that no one in the Administration seems to want to talk about this bill? Do a web search and try to find someone on the inside saying anything about it. If you do, please post the link as a comment.

(2) A friend writes:

I came across a news item whose irony I needed to pass along. Yesterday, the House Congressional caucus voted to replace the powerful chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, John Dingell. Since I’ve known Dingell for over 20 years, I decided to inquire as to the vote to see how close the election was. I was told that that information was not available, since the Democratic caucus members not only vote by secret ballot but also refuse to make public the final tally. Aren’t those the same folks favoring the denial of secret balloting in union elections?

(3) A post on a blog on an anti-labor blog called LaborPains.org.

The Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC) called on Senate Democrats to replace today’s secret ballot vote over Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s (D-CT) committee chairman status with the public open vote method they would like to implement in union organizing elections.

Democrats are slated to cast a secret ballot vote today to decide whether Lieberman will maintain the chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. That stands in stark contrast with their support for the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which will effectively eliminate the secret ballot vote in union organizing elections. EFCA is expected to be one of the first items on the legislative agenda in 2009.

One of the benefits offered by a secret ballot vote is that Democratic Senators who support their colleague won’t have to fear retribution from left wing activists and bloggers who strongly dislike Lieberman. Similarly colleagues who oppose Lieberman won’t have to fear retribution from the Senator if he maintains his Chairmanship. That same protection from retribution will be denied American workers who will be forced to make a decision on the union in public.

(4) A comment about an SEIU presentation on another blog:

I am a progressive, supported Obama, BNF, DSSC, Al Franken and others with $$ this season – but I cannot support the EFCA. It just seems to be so anti-democratic. Why are we afraid of a secret ballot? Let people decide in private whether they want representation or not. The goal should not be more union members, the goal should be fair treatment for workers. While I admire much of Robert’s work – his statement that the EFCA will “effectively restore the middle class…” is just over the top. Support the right to an election, support penalties for anti-union activities but do not support the EFCA.

(5) But then there are those who are ready to take to the streets if Mr. Obama backs off.

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