Can Harkin Write A Real Employee Free Choice Compromise?

March 27, 2009 1:49 p.m.
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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) delivered a setback to the labor movement earlier this week when he vowed to support a GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — but supporters of the union-organizing bill are proceeding undaunted with their grassroots lobbying efforts.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, EFCA champion Tom Harkin (D-IA) has begun courting Republican supporters for a compromise deal, according to Roll Call. One suspects that a new organizing bill coming from Harkin, a stalwart progressive, would be more balanced between business and labor interests than the “compromise” being pushed by three corporate CEOs … but that plan may be defining the right-ward end of what’s doable.

Here’s how Roll Call saw the lay of the land:

Democratic aides said that should a compromise be reached, it will likely end up somewhere between the card check bill as it’s currently written and an alternative union organizing proposal floated by Starbucks Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. That plan would retain the use of secret ballots when workers decide to unionize and would not include binding arbitration provisions. It would, however, include a number of other provisions, including allowing unions access to employees during off-work hours and requiring a fixed date for elections.

The alternative has been publicly criticized by Harkin and other pro-labor Democrats as being unacceptable. But privately Democrats acknowledged it was the first sign of movement from the business community that a compromise may be possible.

Democrats predicted they would likely use the existing card check legislation as the underlying bill, with any major changes being made through amendments on the floor.

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