Monday, August 27, 2007

Union Campaign Contributions and Udall's "Serious Reservations"

A watcher has published a letter from Boulder liberal Rep. Mark Udall to constituent Ralph Shnelvar about Udall's co-sponsorship of the ill-named Employee Free Choice Act, and asks the question: "Whose vote is really for sale?"

But then again, one can raise the same question from Udall's House of Representatives floor speech on the same bill:

Madam Speaker, I will vote for this bill. It can help working people, and it will send a strong message that we need a National Labor Relations Board committed to fairness in the workplace.

But as I said 2 years ago, I have serious reservations about lessening the role of the secret ballot in union elections. Workers should not be intimidated by pressure from either business or labor in making decisions about organizing a union.

However, it is clear that the NLRB has clearly failed to protect workers from intimidation and union-busting. That is why I support this bill even though it is far from perfect.

And while I support the rule because it allows the House to consider some meaningful amendments, I am disappointed that others were not included. For example, I thought we ought to have made changes to make the procedure for decertifying unions like those for establishing unions. We should also have considered setting deadlines for NLRB decisions.

I would hope those amendments, and others, maybe even a sunset clause, will be considered in the Senate not only because they could improve this legislation but because open debate on amendments might help reduce the divisions and polarization about this bill.

But the House should pass the bill, imperfect though it is, so the Senate can continue the process of reforming our labor laws to better protect workers' rights while also working towards balance, fairness, and objectivity in the way that the NLRB must do its job.

Rep. Udall had "serious reservations" about taking away workers' right to the secret ballot. But what role did $75,000 in campaign contributions from Big Labor play in quieting his conscience and downplaying his "serious reservations"? In any case, the Boulder Democrat sounds very conflicted.

Even the reliably liberal Denver Post editorial board called Udall on the carpet for his co-sponsorship of the bill:

And Udall, who wants to be Colorado’s next senator, should know that elections here are won by wooing over moderate, independent-minded voters. Casting votes like this won’t help. The proposal died only after Senate Democrats could attract only one Republican vote, from Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, to stop a GOP filibuster against the bill.

The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act also would have denied workers the right to a secret ballot on the question of whether they want to be represented by a union at all. The measure, which passed the House 241-185, is sure to be back because organized labor has made it the top priority in the new Democratic-controlled Congress.

But the tenets of the bill aren’t Western values, and our lawmakers should oppose this unprecedented intrusion of federal power into the collective bargaining process and private workplaces.

I can almost hear the campaign ad now: "Mark Udall... in line with a special interest agenda, out of step with Western values."

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