A Quick Note on A Rigged Game

Freddie writes:

The more that one side or the other plugs their ears and refuses to compromise, the less incentive there is to include their concerns– or the concerns of their constituents– at all. Of course, this is only useful if your side is in power. And now my side is, and like Yglesias I would like our Democratic leadership to remember that and act accordingly.

I am very interested to see how this plays out with respect to The Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”).   Given organized labor’s status as a favored constituency amongst Democrats and that they would like a generous return on the time, energy and money invested helping get President Obama elected, is there any room for compromise?  Given the decline with organized labor and its lack of success in organizing in, for example, service-related industries (i.e. Wal-Mart).  The key component of this proposed law (which I have criticized at length here) would put the decision of whether or not shops or companies get unionized solely in the hands of organized labor by removing the ability for employers to ask for a NLRB-certified election to verify results of a card-check campaign.*

I have spent a fair amount of time reading the literature from various sources.   The underlying motivation for EFCA is the borderline fundamentalist belief that the current election system is so corrupt (different sources will dispute this) and in such disrepair that it has to be eliminated and, not surprisingly, organized labor knows exactly how to do that.  There are those of us who are more than willing to address and investigate the possiblity of an increase in unfair labor practices but are hardly convinced that a radical transformation of labor law is the answer.

Freddie, do you see any potential for compromise here?  Unless Democrats are willing to keep the current election system in place, I see no room for compromise.  Even for those of us willing to work on closing gaps or making clarifications to existing law, we will ultimately have nothing to offer because it will not go far enough to appease organized labor, who will settle for nothing less than the EFCA.  I don’t think it’s my eyes and ears that are closed.  Just saying…

Quick addendum: My point is that I’m not sure how prudent such a strategy would be when a political agenda on one issue (or multiple issues) is driven by an interest group within the party that has little motivation or inclination to work with the other side if it doesn’t think it has to.  I thought EFCA would make a good example of this.

* EFCA proponents suggest that under EFCA, workers make that decision.  While technically true under the law, I think the likely scenario is that unions will make that decision for them. 

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8 thoughts on “A Quick Note on A Rigged Game

  1. No, I think EFCA is either/or proposition, and you are unlikely to get anything you want out of its implementation.

    Content yourself with the fact the EFCA will keep the tiny, beleagueredand functionally powerless on a national level American labor movement around, for the right to continue to use as an all-purpose target on which to blame our country’s ills. Union power has been vanishing in this country for decades, the number of unionized members has never been smaller since the advent of the American labor movement, and yet conservatives continue to blame them for all of our country’s various misfortunes. The smaller unions shrink, the more they are supposed to be to blame. It’s weird. But it’s a handy rhetorical device, and so I think conservatives would probably rather have some union presence around to act as a shibboleth and hate object, rather than ending unionism altogether.

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  2. Freddie,

    I figured that it may be an either/or proposition and just wanted your perspective.

    I do have a general understanding of what has taken place and am aware of the low private sector union membership (7%ish). That does not change my concerns about EFCA though or my views on organized labor as an interest group. That may be a topic deserving of its own thread though.

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  3. Wonderful Mark.

    Between one of our other discussions, a post I need to finish and a completely unpleasant real estate market that is not cooperating with me, I’m a bit occupied at the moment. :)

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  4. Some people on the left believe it’s not as either-or as you and Freddie believe, Dave. See for an example this Washington Monthly article by T.A. Frank, which proposes a grand bargain in which card check is abandoned and instead we severely increase penalties for illegal union-busting, along with some other changes to organizing as it’s currently practiced.

    Speaking as a pro-labor liberal I don’t necessarily agree with him/her, but on a tactical level I think Frank makes a solid case, and the article is worth reading for people on both sides.

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  5. The best compromise win/win situation would be to deal with illegal immigration. If there’s unlimited supply, it will be very difficult for labor to leverage much at all. Tighter borders would restrict the supply, driving US wages (and thus the cost of labor) up. This would result in better wages for the blue collar and increased demand for automation and hence engineering and other white collar jobs. Canada does this very smartly.

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