Roughly two hours before the President took the stage for his second press conference in as many months, SEIU's president Andy Stern was spotted leaving the West Wing of the White House.
The labor leader's visit comes just a few hours after Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) announced that he would not, as he did in 2007, vote for cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act, a union legislative priority. So it seems likely that Stern and the officials with whom he met had much to discuss.
Barack Obama sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act while in the Senate and has offered short but supportive statements advocating the measure since his election. An email earlier in the day to get the administration's response to Specter's proclamation went unreturned. The SEIU, meanwhile, released the following statement in regards to Tuesday's news.
In the middle of this economic crisis, passing the Employee Free Choice Act is exactly the right thing to do to give workers the chance to level the playing field. Majority Leader Reid said today, and as even Sen. Specter acknowledges, we need strong labor reform. Now more than ever, America's workers need a choice, free from intimidation and harassment, to bargain for job security, better wages and health care. Our President, Vice President and majorities in both houses of Congress share this goal, and we will not stop in our efforts to achieve it.
In an essay Senator Specter recently wrote for the Harvard Law Review, he states that for people like himself, "finding a practical solution is more important than political posturing." That's why we're dismayed by those who say they support the democratic process, yet refuse to allow meaningful debate and a democratic vote on critical legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.
It's simple: If you support democracy, you should support the right to debate legislation that could improve the lives of millions of working Americans, pump $49 billion into the economy at a time when we desperately need it, and that's supported by the vast majority of the public.
We look forward to working with Sen. Specter and the rest of the Congress to find ways to give workers the free choice to join a union free from intimidation and harassment.