Scott Brown’s (R) astonishing win in last week’s Massachusetts special election was made possible, in part, by the state’s union members. According to an article in Politico, 49 percent of union members backed the Republican state senator, while 46 percent cast their vote in favor of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). By electing Brown as the 41st Republican U.S. senator, organized labor dramatically diminished the chances that their number one legislative priority – the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) (H.R. 1409, S. 560) – will pass Congress this year. Now that Senate Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority, it is unlikely that this controversial and increasingly unpopular bill will become law.
Even EFCA’s proponents are expressing pessimism. In the article, chief sponsor of the measure and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is quoted as acknowledging that EFCA’s chance of passage this year “doesn’t look too good.” According to Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, labor leaders are now looking at other options to promote their agenda. Among those options mentioned in the article is trying to seek changes through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Currently, President Obama’s three nominees to fill the five-member Board have yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Some members of Congress and business leaders have expressed fear that the most controversial nominee – Craig Becker – would try to implement provisions of EFCA at the regulatory level. There is also some concern that parts of EFCA could find its way into the massive Senate jobs bill that is nearing completion, although this would be a politically divisive move. Massachusetts union members, however, helped to all but ensure that EFCA in its current legislative form is dead, at least for this term.
Photo credit: Christine Gehrig