This one is sure to ruffle some feathers, but Obama is signaling that he’s more than willing to find common ground on this issue and I have to say it’s a relief to hear. Especially since this seems to be the last thing we should be focusing on right now.
Wash Post: The Employee Free Choice Act – a timing question and a substance question: in terms of timing how quickly would you like to see it brought up? Would you like to see it brought up in your first year? In terms of substance, the bills that you talked about in your floor statement on the Employee Free Choice Act problems with bullying of [inaudible] people want to join unions. Is card check the only solution? Or are you open to considering other solutions that might shorten the time?
Obama: I think I think that is a fair question and a good one.
Here’s my basic principal that wages and incomes have flatlined over the last decade. That part of that has to do with forces that are beyond everybody’s control: globalization, technology and so forth. Part of it has to do with workers have very little leverage and that larger and larger shares of our productivity go to the top and not to the middle or the bottom. I think unions serve an important role in that. I think that the way the Bush Administration managed the Department of Labor, the NLRB, and a host of other aspects of labor management relations put the thumb too heavily against unions. I want to lift that thumb. There are going to be steps that we can take other than the Employee Free Choice Act that will make a difference there.
I think the basic principal of making it easier and fairer for workers who want to join a union, join a union is important. And the basic outline of the Employee Fair Choice are ones that I agree with. But I will certainly listen to all parties involved including from labor and the business community which I know considers this to be the devil incarnate. I will listen to parties involved and see if there are ways that we can bring those parties together and restore some balance.
You know, now if the business community’s argument against the Employee Free Choice Act is simply that it will make it easier for people to join unions and we think that is damaging to the economy then they probably won’t get too far with me. If their arguments are we think there are more elegant ways of doing this or here are some modifications or tweaks to the general concept that we would like to see. Then I think that’s a conversation that not only myself but folks in labor would be willing to have. But, so that’s the general approach that I am interested in taking. But in terms of time table, if we are losing half a million jobs a month then there are no jobs to unionize. So my focus first is on those key economic priority items that I just mentioned.
I think he’s sending a pretty clear message to Democratic lawmakers to not demagogue this issue, especially since there are more important things to do. And honestly, I know Dems are trying to front load this legislative season with all of the pet projects they’ve had on the back burner for 8 years, but this one seems like it could easily be defeated…so why now?
More as it develops…