Well, EFCA got the rug pulled out from under it last week. That's when key Senate Democrats caved in and announced they couldn't support the Employee Free Choice Act in its current incarnation. EFCA is -- or was -- a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions and the looming fight over it, pitting unions against American business, would've created a political and media war that would've made the Clintons' 1994 foray into health-care reform look like a Quaker picnic. The key word here is "fight" -- the mere mention of that noun had liberals reaching for smelling salts. Especially millionaire Senator Dianne Feinstein of California who, during the Bush ice age, was all for working people -- when her stance had no chance of being translated into legislation. (She was a sponsor of a previous version of EFCA.)
The official Democratic explanation has been that those mean old Republicans had threatened to filibuster the bill, whose most horrendous provision is one that would allow workers at a company to sign cards indicating their desire to join a union -- once there was a majority of employee signatures, the union could be formed. For the past year Chamber of Commerce types have been railing against this and other provisions as the harbinger of an American Red Terror. Democrats and moderate Republicans had their own reasons for abandoning EFCA.
According to the L.A. Times,
Feinstein issued a statement saying, "This is an extraordinarily
difficult economy, and feelings are very strong on both sides of the
In other words, workers can only unionize when the economy's fine. And
when Republicans aren't opposed. Or when, in some science fictiony
future, the Democrats have a filibuster-proof Senate. Like everyone in
I was asked to send a letter to Feinstein to support the measure -- her
knees had been heard knocking on the subject ever since the Democrats
won the White House in November. Part of me thinks that my delay in
mailing the letter helped doom EFCA, but it's not a serious part.
Organized labor is pissed. It had gone all out last year to elect
Barack Obama and every Democrat it could (the Service Employees Union
International alone spent $80 million during this last campaign),
knowing that Obama's victory represented history's last, best and final
offer to get this bill passed. And, with barely a whisper from the new
president on the bill since November 4, the unions may be forgiven for
thinking they elected Joe Lieberman.
Immediately following Obama's victory, labor had said, in L.A. and a
thousand union halls across the country, it would hold the Democrats'
feet to the fire on EFCA and to punish those who waffled when it came
time to back up their promises. Well, Feinstein and others have waffled
plenty, showing themselves to be afraid of a fight "because of the
It remains to be seen if unions will back up their own pledges to
politically punish the Democrats who caved in. So
far the 800,000-strong L.A. County Federation of Labor,
which has been lobbying nonstop to get EFCA passed, appears to be
adopting a wait-and-see approach, and hasn't issued a statement about
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last week's Senate defections. There is a chance that some watered-down
form of EFCA can be passed in this session but no one's holding their
breath. The Democrats, after all, would have to endure some dirty looks from big
business lobbyists in order to pass the bill. Ouch, that would hurt.