Specter's "Close Call"

Not so fast

By Mark Mix
[As published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on March 29, 2009.]

In a dramatic announcement last Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter proclaimed on the Senate floor that, while it’s “a close call,” he will, at this time, oppose the deceptively titled Employee Free Choice Act, better known as Big Labor’s Card Check Forced Unionism Bill.

The “card-check” bill would force millions of American workers into dues-paying union ranks against their will and without even the protection of a secret ballot.

Specter, a Philadelphia Republican, undoubtedly is feeling the heat. Like a number of Democrats, he is starting to back away from this radical union power grab after hearing from the vast majority of Americans who oppose the bill.

But it is way too soon to wave the victory flag.

In the last Senate session, Specter was the only Republican to vote with the entire Democrat caucus on the job-killing, freedom-crushing bill. Fortunately, the proponents of these sweeping changes (for the worse) to America’s Depression-era labor policy lacked the votes to cut off debate and the bill died.

But after spending well over $1 billion in the 2008 election cycle to elect President Barack Obama and other politicians favoring forced unionism, Big Labor’s high command now is demanding a return on its investment.
Obama has obliged so far by signing executive orders that could blacklist nonunion workers from federal contracting, cutting union financial reporting requirements and picking hardcore forced unionism partisan Hilda Solis to serve as Labor secretary.

Union lobbyists have worked overtime to secure Specter’s vote on card check — even pledging to spend forced union dues registering union partisans as Republicans — so Specter would have more support in what is expected to be a tough 2010 primary election. Others even encouraged him to switch parties, promising to support him in a Democrat primary next year.
Faced with the possibility of a Republican primary challenge from former Congressman Pat Toomey, Specter has gone to great lengths to position his decision this past week, scripting an elaborate public relations campaign inside and outside of Washington.

While Right to Work supporters welcome allies (even if unreliable), Specter may be overestimating his role in this matter. The National Right to Work Committee and others believe the card-check bill is taking on water as other senators feel the heat building across the nation.

That’s perhaps why Specter made his announcement now, hoping to capitalize on it politically.

Most disturbing, however, and underreported, is that Specter made it clear he might again support this job-killing forced unionism bill in the future — especially if the damaging alternatives he is now advancing fall flat.

And it is the so-called “compromises” that might be what Big Labor really wants. They include:

• quick-snap elections where employees would get to hear only union officials’ side of the story

• allowing union organizers access to company property and time to pressure employees

• and beefed-up intrusion by government arbitrators.

Specter no doubt sees himself a Senate powerbroker, negotiating “compromise” amid competing special interest groups. But when it comes to forced unionism, there are no “close calls” and there can be no compromise.

A compromise strategy toward forced unionism leaves both economic devastation and forced unionism abuse in its wake. Just ask the Big Three automakers, which themselves started down this path in the late 1940s with the United Auto Workers union hierarchy and have since presided over their industry’s inevitable collapse.

Whether Specter ultimately gets back on board with the card-check bill — or simply pursues personal proposals — his actions would be unacceptable. Pennsylvania’s citizens should continue to keep the heat on the senator for as long as he insists on promoting any expansion of coercive union power.

The case against the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill is anything but “a close call.” The bill would destroy the secret ballot, kill jobs, force hardworking Americans into dues-paying ranks and allow federal bureaucrats to impose contracts on employers and employees.
But rather than admitting these truths and facing down the self-interested union brass, Arlen Specter has done what many politicians do — try to have it both ways.

Mark Mix is president of the 2.2 million-member National Right to Work Committee.