Labor officials are "VERY pleased" with statements made by President Barack Obama on the Employee Free Choice Act during a sit down interview with 15 regional papers on Wednesday.
The president, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, "said he believes there is no economic risk to workers organizing and making a living wage."
The Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, quoted Obama as saying he didn't "buy the argument that providing workers with collective-bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment." Moreover, the paper reported that Obama "would not urge a delay in consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act."
The directness of the remarks is something that caught labor officials (pleasantly) by surprise. A few weeks ago, Obama was quoted in the Washington Post, hedging a bit on the time-frame by which he would like to see EFCA considered. This is "more definite," said a labor official. "[He] wants [Congress] to take it up."
"From what the White House was saying behind the scenes, we were still confident [Obama] was behind [EFCA]," the source added. "Him putting it on the record in public makes me feel a lot better."
As it stands now, Senate Democrats appear likely to wait until Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is seated (if he is seated) before taking up the contentious legislation.
In his Wednesday interview, Obama did add a wrinkle to the debate. Reflecting his usual predisposition again political fights, he discussed the notion of compromise between business-backed forces that view EFCA as a poison pill to the economy, and the labor community that has poured countless time and resources to the legislation's passage.
"Whether those conversations can bear fruit over the next several months, we'll see," the president said. "But I'm always a big believer in before we gear up for some tooth-and-nail battle, that we see if some accommodations can't be found."
Inside labor, however, there is scant talk of compromise on EFCA, primarily because the key provisions are so cut and dry -- either employees can form a union by having a majority of workers sign authorization cards, or they can't.
"We don't mind [the compromise talk] because he is Obama and that is what he does," said the source, "but this isn't really something you can compromise on... You could tweak around the outsides like have more time until it's implemented. But on the core card-check part, you either do it or you can't, not much wiggle room."
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