Why EFCA was Introduced Now

We all know that EFCA was introduced yesterday, and since its introduction, I have fielded dozens of questions of why now and why in both the Senate and House.  And although I don’t have the magic answer – only the co-sponsors of the bill have that – I do have an understanding of why now is the right time for this bill to be introduced in the manner that it was.

In 2007 the Employee Free Choice Act passed the House of Representatives with all but two Democrats voting in favor of it.  For a myriad of reasons, Democrats aren’t supporting it down partisan lines this time around.  In fact, the Blue Dog Caucus, a group of moderate/conservative Democrats in the House are beginning to vocalize their displeasure with the bill. 

In early February, Marion Berry (D-AK) told the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce that he thought EFCA was a piece of junk and he only voted for it because he knew President Bush would veto it.  Rep. Berry is not alone in his thinking.  Both Senator’s from Berry’s state of Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, have signaled they may not vote for the bill.  What makes these three central to the EFCA battle?  Because Bentonville, Arkansas is home to the largest and most outspoken, anti-union corporation in the world – Wal-Mart, and they really don’t want to vote against Wal-Mart.

Like those from Arkansas, other Democrats are leery about EFCA harming their chances of reelection in 2010.  In fact, nearly 20% of the first-time Representatives did not co-sign the bill and they come from the most competitive districts in the country.  Specifically, Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala), Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), and Parker Griffith (D-Ala) all won with less than 52% of the vote .  Reps Frank Kratovil (D-Md) and Tom Perriello (D-Va) each required a recount to claim their seats.  Only Reps. Glenn Nye (D-Va) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz) won by comfortable margins.  All but Perriello took over $100,000 in campaign money from labor unions, and Perriello took $77,000. 

Despite these statistics and the outspoken Blue Dog opponents of EFCA, the House had 223 co-sponsors of the bill, which basically indicates that it will once again sail through the House.  However, Democrats in the House enjoy a 38-vote margin of error for getting legislation passed.  The Blue Dogs have 47 members.  So, if the Dogs stick together, they can block any legislation they want to, including EFCA.  But why would they want to block EFCA?  Because corporations hate EFCA and corporations have deep pockets.  And just like Obama is rewarding the unions for spending $500 million on getting elected President, a lot of rich corporations will reward those who help defeat EFCA – even moderate Democrats.

So we turn our attention to the Senate.  The Senate bill had 40 sponsors – all Democrats (this includes Lieberman and Sanders, both registered Independents).  60 Senators in favor of EFCA is needed for a cloture vote – which defeats a Republican filibuster.  18 Democrats did not sponsor the bill, including Lincoln and Pryor from Arkansas who are trying to be wolves in sheeps clothing for WalMart. 

Here’s the most recent theory on breaking down how the Senators will vote.  The 40 sponsors will obviously vote in favor of the bill.  The following Senators are considered locks for voting in favor of EFCA:  Feinstein (D-CA), Bennet (D-CO), Udall (D-CO), McCaskill (D-MO), Baucus (D-MT), Tester (D-MT), Bingaman (D-NM), Hagan (D-NC), Conrad (D-ND), Dorgan (D-ND), Waner (D-VA), Webb (D-VA), and Kohl (D-WI) = 53 lean votes for EFCA.  Best case scenario for the EFCA supporters is that Lincoln, Pryor, Bayh (D-IN), Landrieu (D-LA), and Nelson (D-NE) – all of whom voted in favor of EFCA in 2007 – must do so again.  But to make sure they have the magic 60 votes, Arlen Spector (R-PA) who voted in favor of it before needs to vote in favor of it again, and Al Franken (D-MN) needs to be crowned champion of Minnesota’s Senate seat and vote in favor of EFCA.

Let’s not forget that in late February, the Secret Ballot Protection Actwas introduced in an effort to preempt the introduction of EFCA.  The SBPA was introduced in both the House and Senate by both House and Senate Republicans, and would make it an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to recognize a union that has not been selected via secret ballot.  Additionally, it would be unlawful for a union that has not been chosen by the employees’ exclusive representative in a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board to cause or attempt to cause an employer to recognize or bargain with it.

So here’s my conventional wisdom: Unions and Democratic Congressmen were enjoying all the attention given to the economy, which helped make their case that employees need better wages and job security now more then ever – despite how illogical that argument really is.  The media has not picked up on covering the Employee Free Choice Act, yet.  In fact, most people (including business owners, management, and employees) don’t know what EFCA is and how it can change their lives literally overnight.  And the more covert Congress can keep EFCA, the better for its chances of passing.  However, Democratic Congressional opponents of EFCA, including the Blue Dogs, were becoming increasingly vocal about the negative effects of EFCA, and it was only a matter of time until the media began discussing it, and once the general populace became educated about EFCA, it’s allure would quickly fade. 

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the introduction of the Secret Ballot Protection Act.  The SBPA thrust card check and the removal of the secret ballot in union elections to the forefront and the media would inevitably begin covering  the nuances of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Rather than have a one-sided debate about the SBPA, the EFCA proponents had no choice but to introduce their bill at this time, and of course, introduce it in both the House and Senate on the heels of the SBPA being introduced in both the House and the Senate a few weeks ago.

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