William Felkner: Card-Checking Arlen Specter
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has become a Democrat. Many view this as only a change of label, but it could have a significant impact nonetheless.
As you may all be painfully aware, card-check legislation is pending in Washington. If passed, it would eliminate the secret ballot for workers and give unions the ability to knock on potential members’ doors and say whatever it takes to get a signature on a small card, which will still be a binding legal document that would force collective bargaining on an employer.
Elimination of the secret ballot also eliminates the assurance that the worker has ample opportunity to hear both sides of the argument.
This legislation has been struggling to be passed. Inside the beltway rumors have it that the swing vote, Senator Specter, hasn’t received enough “support” from the unions yet but was keeping the door open to persuasion.
My birdies that fly south-right for the winter tell me that the Republican National Committee has threatened Specter that if he supported card-check it would throw its support behind his likely primary opponent, Pat Toomey. Well, it looks like we can call him the general election opponent now.
Regardless of where this shakes out, it still bodes ill for workers’ rights to secret ballots. The Democrats, who are clearly taking direction from the unions on this issue, are only one or two votes away from the 60 needed to close out the Republicans (depending on how the
Franken/Coleman race goes). Because card-check is such bad legislation, any compromise will be a step in the wrong direction.
Bill Felkner is the president of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, sponsor of the LRB Watch website and the Transparency Train public information portal.