According to an article in the Examiner the other day, Senator Michael Bennet was shocked when a pair of Chamber of Commerce representatives came to lobby him against the Employee Free Choice Act. Bennet asked the lobbyists why they were visiting him for a bill that won't even be coming to the floor for a vote.
For months now in Washington, it has been known that the Employee Free Choice Act won't ever see a vote. However, this hasn't stopped the Chamber of Commerce to continue flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists against a dead bill. According to the Examiner:
Executives and owners representing thousands of small and medium-size businesses from eight states flooded Capitol Hill yesterday with one message for their senators -- don't even think about trying to revive the supposedly dead Employee Free Choice Act.
An estimated 250 of the lobbyists-for-a-day represented state-level chambers of commerce from Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Their work was organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been a vocal opponent of the proposal, which is also known as card check.
So why in the world would the Chamber of Commerce still be lobbying on the Employee Free Choice Act if it's considered dead?
It's because they want to crush the ability of organized labor to shape the agenda on labor law.
The labor movement has lost many big fights throughout the nation's history. The key has always been whether we continued to keep fighting afterward.
In 1886, a nationwide general strike of millions calling for the eight hour work day seemed to be on the verge of achieving victory. Then President Grover Cleveland called out the troops to violently suppress the strike, killing over 100 strikers. While labor lost the fight in the short term, they never gave up the call for the eight hour work day - winning it in various states and industries over the following decades. Eventually in 1938, the eight hour work day was achieved nationwide as Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Despite long odds and tough oppression, they never gave up their fight for change and eventually won.
However there have been other times when labor stopped fighting for change. After the PATCO strike was crushed in 1981, a vicious new wave of illegal, union busting was launched. Organized labor under the hapless leadership of Lance Kirkland dropped their previous demands to improve the already weak labor law. Instead, they merely fought to maintain what they had. As a result they were forced repeatedly to compromise - giving more and more concessions to weaken the already current law.
This lesson wasn't lost on Big Business. They want to beat up labor so badly that they will never push for the Employee Free Choice Act again. The Chamber of Commerce keeps pushing against the Employee Free Choice Act because they want to push the unions back into making concessions on weakening current law. We have already seen the success of Big Business to change the political dynamic by their ability to stop the routine nomination of Craig Becker to the NLRB.
While health care and jobs are getting more attention from labor activists as they look more successful, it's important that we not give up the Employee Free Choice Act.
If we don't keep fighting, Big Business will just start pushing more aggressive assaults on labor and weaken the political position of labor.
Remember the best defense is always a strong offense.