March 25, 2009

Arlen Specter dealt a serious blow to the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he opposes the “card-check” union organizing measure, dealing a setback to U.S. labor’s top legislative goal. Specter said that he is likely to be the “decisive vote,” to block the Democratic-backed bill that would make it easier to form unions.

“The problem with the recession makes this a particularly bad time,” Specter said on the Senate floor today. Employers fear the measure “will result in further job losses,” he said.

Back in 2007, Specter voted for "cloture"which means that he cut off the debate of the topic and stoped Republicans from whining about it which is a show of support for EFCA, but now he's using his "cloture" vote as a way to give him a cowardly excuse not to vote for it this time.

In voting for cloture - that, is to cut off debate - in June 2007, I emphasized in my floor statement and in a law review article that I was not supporting the bill on the merits, but only to take up the issue of labor law reform. Hearings had shown that the NLRB was dysfunctional and badly politicized. When Republicans controlled the Board, the decisions were for business. With Democrats in control, the decisions were for labor. Some cases took as long as eleven years to decide. The remedies were ineffective.

UPDATE I: Specter’s Defection On EFCA Fails To Win Over Right Wing

If Senator Arlen Specter had hoped that bailing on the Employee Free Choice Act yesterday would make him the toast of the town among his right wing critics, he probably woke up this morning feeling like he has a pretty crushing hangover — after doing a lot of drinking alone.

Conservative groups and politicians, far from won over by Specter’s announcement, continue to hammer away at the embattled Senator, suggesting that his abrupt move on EFCA will do little or nothing to reduce his vulnerability to a primary challenge from the on

Howie Klein sizes up the playing field to see what our options are.

The math says that if Ted Kennedy is healthy enough to vote and Al Franken gets seated and all the Democrats-- including Evan Bayh's anti-Obama bloc-- all continue to back the bill (even WalMart's cowardly Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor), then Employee Free Choice passes if Specter sticks to his guns.

With today's craven and cowardly announcement by Specter, more worried about his primary challenger from the fringes of the Republican right than about his own dignity or, more important, Pennsylvania working families, the Democrats will either have to put off the vote until after the 2010 election or persuade either Olympia Snowe (R-ME) or retiring George Voinovich (R-OH), neither of whom is a union-hater, to switch their votes.

Big Business is quite happy with his choice, but in reality it makes no sense. The right already hates him and he's in a state where jobs are needed. He's taking the path of going far right to try and appease the wingnut base, but he knows they will never be appeased np matter what he does. He will still face a primary challenge. (See Jason Rosenbaum for more on this point.)

Andy Stern responds to Specter's cowardice.

In the middle of this economic crisis, passing the Employee Free Choice Act is exactly the right thing to do to give workers the chance to level the playing field. Majority Leader Reid said today, and as even Sen. Specter acknowledges, we need strong labor reform. Now more than ever, America's workers need a choice, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care. Our President, Vice President and majorities in both houses of Congress share this goal, and we will not stop in our efforts to achieve it.

In an essay Senator Specter recently wrote for the Harvard Journal on Legislation, he states that for people like himself, "finding a practical solution is more important than political posturing." That's why we're dismayed by those who say they support the democratic process, yet refuse to allow meaningful debate and a democratic vote on critical legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.

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