Friday, May 01, 2009

Restaurants Beware: "The Specter of Compromise"

20090501_Union_YesTo steal an old line from Karl Marx, a Specter is haunting America... as in Arlen Specter, the Senator from Pennsylvania.

In case you missed it, on Tuesday, April 28th, Specter announced that he was leaving the Republican Party and re-joining the Democratic Party... which he had previously abandoned many years earlier in his political career.

Why is this important to restaurants?

Siding with the Republicans, Specter was viewed by many as being the lone Senator preventing the Democratic majority from pushing forward with the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would make it easier to unionize and one which President Obama has already said he would sign.

According to Business Week, "Specter's party switch-coupled with the apparent victory of Minnesota Democrat Al Franken in that state's contested Senate election-would give the Democrats the necessary 60-vote supermajority needed to impose cloture and end Senate filibusters."

In other words, card check---a bill that would be ruinous for the labor-intnesive restaurant industry---would be back on the table.  This time around could be even more tricky for business; the possiblity of a "compromise" to remove the secret ballot issue as the lightning rod could pave the way for the bill to start moving through a mollified congress.

Specter attempted to placate the business community in the statement announcing his switch, noting that "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats than I have been for the Republicans... For example, my position on Employees Free Choice will not change."

Then again, it's already changed. Specter supported card check legislation in 2007 before voting against it in 2009.  It's no surprise union supporters smell blood in the water.

"It's a huge change for labor and for progressives everywhere," said AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel. "This provides the room, it provides space for him to continue this discussion and pass a meaningful bill."

Vice President Joseph Biden further added, "We are working very closely with labor, we support card check... knowing Arlen, I believe Arlen will probably have an open mind if there's a compromise offered...He's an intelligent, open-minded guy and I think he would listen to alternatives."

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this matter, union advocates are hoping to use legislative rules to amend a compromise bill to their advantage should some moderate Senators take the bait.  It should therefore come as no surprise that "Specter's comments last month that he would reconsider if changes were made to the bill has union leaders giddy about his party switch. They sense he will be free to soften his stance on the measure as Democrats work out a compromise."  Those of us in the business community need to remember that, regarding this compromise, accepting half of a big mistake is still a big mistake.

In the meantime, the whims of a habitual flip-flopper may be the only thing preventing mass unionization of many service industries.

I'm sure Specter meant it when he said he won't change his mind on card check... just like he meant it when he said he wouldn't switch parties on March 17th.

Michael Harms | Post a Comment | Email Article

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