If the Democratic leadership pushes the Employee Free Choice Act next year, it could be the nastiest political fight
of Barack Obama's first term.
The bill would make it easier for
employees to form unions by allowing them to sign cards authorizing union
If the Democratic leadership pushes the Employee Free Choice Act next year, it could be the nastiest political fight of Barack Obama's first term.
The bill would make it easier for employees to form unions by allowing them to sign cards authorizing union representation. It died in the Senate last year after only one Republican -- Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- voted for cloture.
It's no surprise that the GOP has put up such a unified fight. Many conservatives hold a visceral disgust for unions, in part because they counterbalance the party's big business constituents. But from a strategical standpoint, fierce opposition to card check could be a disaster for the GOP's long-term electoral prospects.
Why? White union voters heavily favor Democrats. In These Times' David Moberg has the numbers from this cycle:
If more voters belonged to a union, Obama would have won more decisively, even among white voters.
Election-night polling by Peter Hart for the AFL-CIO showed that 67 percent of union members voted for Obama while only 30 percent chose McCain. (Compare that to the 51 to 47 percent advantage Obama had over McCain in exit polls of non-union voters.) The union advantage was slightly higher in battleground states.
Most dramatically, union membership made a big difference in how well Obama performed. Union members over 65 voted by a 46-point margin for Obama, while all voters over 65 voted for McCain by an 8-point margin. Obama won by 23 points among white non-college graduates who belong to a union, even as he lost by 18 points among all white non-college voters.
Obama lost heavily among gun owners and white weekly churchgoers—except if they were union members. Then they voted for Obama, though by slim margins.
Demographic shifts are already shrinking the GOP's core constituency. If more white voters are exposed to union culture, the GOP's share of the electorate will contract even further.
That's what makes the unresolved U.S. Senate races in Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska so crucial. If Democrats can somehow emerge victorious in two of the three outstanding contests, they will hold 57 seats with two independents in their caucus (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders). That leaves Specter in the unenviable position of voting for his party or his ideals. We can only imagine the battle that would ensue.