It's pretty clear which direction the "card check" fight is going: With Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson saying "I'm not in favor of the bill as it [is now]," and the circle of queasy Dems growing larger by the day , even pro-labor Sen. Tom Harkin suggests the bill will be revised before being brought to a vote. So when labor boasts of getting 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, they are boasting about votes for a bill that has yet to be written--or a rewrite that has yet to be made public (though Hot Air has heard rumors ). The question, of course, is whether the bill will retain the controversial elements (allowing unions to bypass secret ballot elections, imposing arbitration on the first contract) and whether, if it doesn't retain them, it will still make changes in rules and procedures, etc. that will substantially help labor organize more workers. More on this later.
As a "card check" opponent, though, I worry that labor has a secret weapon that I'd previously failed to appreciate. Call it "juice." A "juice bill," in California parlance, is a bill that is so important to monied interests that lawmakers are showered with contributions from interested parties and lobbyists all find work representing one side or the other."Card Check" is the Odwalla of juice bills. It's a proposal that terrifies virtually all of American business, which has responded--as Politico 's Ben Smith first chronicled --by a massive program to employ out-of-work Republican lobbyists.
The problem with "juice bills" is that so many people have a vested interest in keeping the fight going. Politicians, most obviously. The longer they're undecided, the longer corporate and union interests will try to subtly influence them with large campaign contributions. End the fight and the money stops. But lobbyists--even, maybe especially, business' lobbyists--also have a vested interest in keeping at least the threat of card check alive. The last thing you want to do, if you're a business lobbyist trying to put your kids through college, is win the card check fight quickly. What would be the point of that? You'd be out of a job. No, you want to not lose the card check fight while keeping alive the possibility of legislation that will continue to terrify your corporate clients into hiring you.
The same, I'm afraid, goes for the press--at least the specialized press that covers labor. When was the last time Steven Greenhouse actually had a labor story that attracted mass interest? Why would he want the fun to end?
It's in none of these groups self-interest to kill card check anytime soon. This is an alarming realization for those, like me, who want to kill card check soon. It's not the main reason the card check fight will go on--the main reason is that the majority Democrats really want to pass something making it easier for workers to form unions. But it might be a factor in prolonging the bill's life beyond its ordinary span. If Democratic support for the original "card check" bill fades, a new compromise will be floated. If support for that fades, there will be another compromise, etc.. If labor seems willing to settle for something less-than-terrifying to business, it's in the interest of the pols, the press, and even (perhaps especially) business' own lobbyists to see that labor sticks to its guns and presses for something more radical.
It will never end, at least if the permanent Beltway culture has its way--not until every incumbent Senator's campaign is fully funded and every ex-Administrative Assistant's mortgage is paid and every labor journalist wins a Nieman Fellowship. La loot continua. 1:51 A.M.