NYT Channels the AFL-CIO

NYT Channels the AFL-CIO

NYT Channels the AFL-CIO

A mostly political weblog.
March 2 2009 3:20 AM

NYT Channels the AFL-CIO

"Card Check" Cocooning? Steven Greenhouse reports organized labor isn't worried about Obama's commitment to "card check" bill: 

... [M]r. Obama has signaled he will push for legislation that would expand labor's thinned ranks by making it far easier to unionize workers. Labor leaders expect Vice President Joseph Biden to spell out the administration's battle plans for the bill on Thursday, when he is scheduled to speak at the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s winter meeting in Miami Beach.

Any doubts that union leaders might have had about Mr. Obama dissolved several weeks ago when, in announcing a new Task Force on the Middle Class, he said: "I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it's part of the solution. You cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement." ...


Mr. Johnson, of the Chamber of Commerce, denounced the bill, saying, "The idea of radically changing employment law when companies are trying to dig themselves out of a hole is ludicrous."

But Mr. Obama disagreed, telling regional newspaper reporters last month: "I don’t buy the argument that providing workers with collective-bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment. If you’ve got workers who have decent pay and benefits, they’re also customers for business."  If there is one area where labor remains uneasy with Mr. Obama, it is trade policy . ... [E.A.]

This seems like  chearleaderish pro-"card check" optimism . Yes, Obama clearly supports unions.  But does he clearly support  the "Employee Free Choice Act," the bill he co-sponsored as a Senator ? The general pro-labor sentiments Greenhouse quotes don't make that case. For example, the Detroit Freep's summary of Obama's regional paper interview contained this passage, left out of both the AFL-CIO's account and Greenhouse's:

He said he hoped to see in coming weeks forces on both sides talk about common ground which could be reached on the legislation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's account continued this passage, also left out of the AFL-CIO's account and Greenhouses's:


At the same time, Obama said business had legitimate concerns. He said he would like to see labor and business groups work together on a compromise.

"Whether those conversations can bear fruit over the next several months, we'll see," he said. "But I'm always a big believer in before we gear up for some tooth-and-nail battle, that we see if some accommodations can't be found."

If you are really 'pushing' for legislation, do you start by calling for compromise? The unions may effectively win the card check fight--either through a tooth-and-nail battle or a pro-union revision. But unless they are immune to ordinary human anxiety--or have received some private assurance from Obama not reported by Greenhouse--I suspect they have 'doubts' and are 'uneasy.' As are their opponents. ...

Update: Carter Wood suggests that if Obama were 100% for card check, he'd still encourage uncertainty about his position--

Given the faltering support in Congress for card check, strategic ambiguity serves the advocates best.

How to tell real uncertainty from strategic uncertainty? [ Blind quotes from aides!--ed  Greenhouse has none of those.]  12:49 A.M.