In the weeks since a litany of Senators recently spoke out against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), organized labor has nonetheless complained that it deserves an up-or-down vote on whether to take away employees’ right to vote in secret on unionization. With little hope that these Senators will change their position, Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has now acknowledged that the prospects for EFCA’s passage look grim, indicating the first large fissure in organized labor’s efforts to pass EFCA. In an interview with The Washington Post, admitting a strategic error on the part of EFCA supporters, Stern intimated that the version of EFCA introduced in the Senate – which contains, among other things, the infamous “card check” and mandatory arbitration provisions – was introduced in this form to mirror the companion bill introduced in the House, and that this strategy might not have been the best one to ensure EFCA’s passage. According to the article, Stern said:
We sort of have a bill that talks a lot about majority signup and nothing about the problems of the election system. . . That was probably a decision made in the House to have the same bill come up and potentially pass the same bill – which is not going to be a logical way to follow through now that we know . . . what the situation is.
There has been speculation for weeks whether organized labor would continue to push its “no compromise” position on EFCA in hopes of having a better outcome after the 2010 elections, or abandon EFCA in its current form and push for a compromise bill now that would reform rather than displace the election process. Weighing into that debate, Stern suggested that union election reform could take place without eliminating the secret ballot, and that unions should back such legislation without holding out hope that the 2010 election will result in a larger Democratic senate majority that could be more receptive to EFCA. Stern also acknowledged that President Obama has not made EFCA a legislative priority, and therefore cannot be counted on to rally the 60 votes needed to end an inevitable filibuster.
Stern appears to be the first union leader to publicly concede to EFCA’s slim chance of passage and to support alternative legislation. Much of the business community continues to oppose EFCA in any form, including any compromise, arguing among other things that union success rates in elections under current law demonstrate that there is no need for union election reform.