by Randy Shannon
In an April 28th statement on Sen. Arlen Specter’s decision to run for office as a Democrat, the AFL-CIO said: “We look forward to continuing an open and honest debate with Senator Specter about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania and America.” http://tinyurl.com/c4cdqo This is a commendable position given the fact that Specter himself is not conducting an honest debate on the Employee Free Choice Act. Specter is a servant of the Mellon and Hillman financial elite of Pennsylvania, regardless of political label. His switch reflects the loss of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania to the far-right Scaife money.
In an April 5th email Sen. Specter made the following statement: “There has been a mixed reaction to my announcement that I will not support legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, also referred to as Card Check, because I simply could not go along with legislation which would remove the secret ballot. The secret ballot is very fundamental in our democratic process so people can exercise their free will without coercion from either side.”
This statement is false. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) does not delete any provision, paragraph, or subsection of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which currently allows a secret ballot. The EFCA amends the NLRA “by adding at the end the following:” and tacks on a provision for certifying the union if the majority sign cards requesting such action.
Even the far-right employer-funded Heritage Foundation admits that the secret ballot is not eliminated. They complain that under the EFCA, the practical result will be that employees will no longer want secret ballots. http://www.heritage.org/Research/labor/bg2175.cfm The Heritage Foundation’s argument shows that the employers rely on the secret ballot as their only chance to defeat workers’ efforts to organize. This is why under current conditions most unions do not file for representation until 75% of workers have signed cards. Even with 75% of employees signing cards, they still lose 40% of the elections due to the firings, intimidation, threats, and indoctrination by the bosses.
As a “friend” of labor, Sen. Specter is well aware of how difficult it is for working people to organize and win a decent standard of living in Pennsylvania and across the nation. So his use of the phony “secret ballot” issue is aimed at misinforming his constituents and at serving as a propaganda voice for the wealthy elite regardless of political affiliation.
Progressive Democrats supported Democrat Joe Hoeffel for Senator in 2004 while the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsed Republican Arlen Specter, believing his false promises. Sen. Specter has abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act now that it has a chance of passing. The PA AFL-CIO policy of playing with the Republican Party has been shown to be a losing hand for working families.
Employees’ right to organize is one of the most important issues facing the nation. But it is not the only issue. Employees also need a national single-payer healthcare system so that healthcare is no longer a bargaining issue. Employees need national guaranteed higher education so that their children have a chance to realize their full potential. Employees need a massive investment in infracture build-out to create jobs and a healthy economy.
Labor and Progressive Democrats must work together to replace the Mellon-Hillman politicians with Democrats with a record of supporting the working people of Pennsylvania foremost.