POLITICS
06/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cheney Whacks EFCA, Labor Welcomes Him As Spokesman

Former vice president Dick Cheney keeps elevating himself to the role of Republican Party spokesman on key political issues. Usually the topic has to do with foreign policy. But in his interview on Tuesday afternoon on Fox News, he grasped hold of one of the GOP's biggest rallying cries -- the Employee Free Choice Act.

Describing himself as not inherently anti-labor -- "I carried a ticket for six years in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in my youth," he said -- Cheney nevertheless hit all the right talking points in decrying the legislation.

"I think it'd be a huge mistake," he said. "I don't think we want to get into the business where we make it easier for there to be the kind of intimidation that we've sometimes seen in these operations in the past and where people wouldn't be able to cast a secret ballot in terms of whether or not they want to join a union."

He even touched on what is the usually privately-held but quite-dominant conservative fear over the labor-backed provision: that an increase in union membership as a result of EFCA would result in the consolidation of Democratic power for decades to come.

"I think what the unions are trying to do here is dramatically expand the base, in terms of membership, and they will in turn generate vast sums of money, in terms of dues and political contributions," he said, "and I think it does have wide-ranging ramifications..."

Lest one have any doubt, labor officials scoffed at Cheney's criticism, noting that EFCA actually doesn't do away with the secret ballot and isn't some nefarious gateway to political dominance. But they also had some fun with his rather unpopular persona. And, like the Democratic Party as a whole, they weren't exactly quivering at having the former vice president as the public face of the opposition.

"Dick Cheney is as much of an expert at helping America's workers as he is on not shooting people in the face," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "If Cheney wants to emerge and be the lead spokesman against the Employee Free Choice Act, I'll help book his interviews."

Here's a transcript of part of Cheney's interview:

Neil Cavuto: Joe Biden was making news today, speaking to a union group, saying, 'we have to rebuild the middle class and the way to do that is to help labor unions grow.' What do you make of that?

Dick Cheney: Well, I'm not anti-labor union. I carried a ticket for six years in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in my youth. I built power line transmission lines all over Wyoming and Utah, Colorado, that's how I paid for my education. So I'm not anti-union. I do think the legislation that the administration is supporting and the unions are pushing hard, the so-called "card check" law, would do away with a secret ballot in terms of the question of organizing unions. I think it'd be a huge mistake. I don't think we want to get into the business where we make it easier for there to be the kind of intimidation that we've sometimes seen in these operations in the past and where people wouldn't be able to cast a secret ballot in terms of whether or not they want to join a union.

Cavuto: Jack Welsh said that it would be deleterious to our economic recovery, do you agree?

Cheney: Well, I always felt that what Ronald Reagan did, um, back in 1981, in the early part of his administration, when he was very touch with the air traffic controllers, was a good, sound, solid move. I think that, as I say, if people want to join a union, fine, that's their business. There are provisions for that, that allow unions to be represented. But I think what the unions are trying to do here is dramatically expand the base, in terms of membership, and they will in turn generate vast sums of money, in terms of dues and political contributions, and I think it does have wide-ranging ramifications and that the current system, where we have secret ballots for people to decide whether or not they want to be represented by a union is a good way to go. We ought to preserve it.

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