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Harkin Seeks Card Check Compromise

The Card Check Fight Starts All Over Again

According to Roll Call, the primary Senate sponsor of the Card Check bill has begun to reach out to Republicans on possible compromise legislation:

With Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) refusing to back a controversial union organizing bill, Senate Democrats have tapped Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to begin preliminary discussions with a handful of moderate Republicans to try to come up with a new plan for reforming the nation’s labor laws.

Democratic aides said Harkin’s outreach to the GOP is in the early stages and, because of that, declined to identify which Republicans he is courting…

Democratic aides said that should a compromise be reached, it will likely end up somewhere between the card check bill as it’s currently written and an alternative union organizing proposal floated by Starbucks Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Whole Foods Market Inc. That plan would retain the use of secret ballots when workers decide to unionize and would not include binding arbitration provisions. It would, however, include a number of other provisions, including allowing unions access to employees during off-work hours and requiring a fixed date for elections.

The alternative has been publicly criticized by Harkin and other pro-labor Democrats as being unacceptable. But privately Democrats acknowledged it was the first sign of movement from the business community that a compromise may be possible.

Democrats predicted they would likely use the existing card check legislation as the underlying bill, with any major changes being made through amendments on the floor.

Harkin, the lead sponsor of the card check bill, also known as the Employee Free Choice Act, said that he had expected amendments would be made and that Specter’s decision to drop his support for the bill would not kill it out right.

“We always expected the bill would be amended, but that does not change the fact that labor reform is needed, as even Senator Specter pointed out. There is no question that the bill will be debated and voted on because workers deserve a share of this recovery. Right now, we are looking for options that all stakeholders can agree to as a way forward to get this bill passed in both the Senate and the House,” Harkin said in a statement Friday.

Poor Arlen Specter! He probably hoped to get out of the crosshairs with his carefully crafted ‘no-Card-Check-now-but-maybe-later-and-I-still-like-the-unions’ statement. But while his decision to vote against the bill probably killed Card Check in its current form, it also marked the kick off of the effort to get a compromise – and he’ll be at the center of that discussion, too. Or will he disappoint labor again, and announce that he won’t take any part in compromise discussions?

There’s been talk for weeks that Big Labor might be willing to drop the provision eliminating the secret ballot for union organizing, and retain the language allowing government mediators to dictate collective bargaining agreements. Is this the compromise that Harkin will pitch to Specter and others? If anything, this part of the bill is worse than the union organizing portion, for reasons that Mickey Kaus laid out very well. Now that even Tom Harkin is throwing in the towel on the original bill (or would have us believe that he is), we need to educate Americans about the other offensive elements in a potential ‘compromise.’

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