March 05, 2007

Card Check: The New Ethanol?

As a follow-up to Jon Chait's great piece on card-check legislation, I see Mickey Kaus is suggesting that card-check will "cripple American capitalism." Kevin Drum mocks the argument, and I'd just add that card check isn't some brand new idea here. The practice was quite common during the late 1930s and 1940s, before Congress passed Taft-Hartley, and the United States did okay for itself. Our neighbors up north, meanwhile, have had card check for a long while--in fact, most provinces still do--and they've survived just fine.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. Kaus is wondering why Barack Obama decided to support the Employee Free Choice Act in the first place:
I don't think this is an endorsement Obama had to make for political reasons. As Dick Morris says, he's sitting pretty--he can be anything he wants to be. He could be a lot more Gary Hartish! He must want to be an old-fashioned unionizer. [But he has to win the Iowa caucuses, dominated by unions—ed Teachers' unions! They're already organized. They don't need no stinking card-check. As for New Hampshire--look what the unions did for Mondale in 1984.]
Now, I don't see what's so bad about wanting to be "an old-fashioned unionizer," especially at a time when workers have little bargaining power, median wages are stagnating, and there are few other viable remedies available. In all likelihood, Obama, a former community organizer, agrees with this view on the merits. But it's worth noting that Kaus is wrong on the politics here--there's plenty of pressure on Democratic candidates to take union-friendly stances. Nevada, for one, has become an early primary state, and the SEIU and UNITE HERE have a lot of influence there. Moreover, even the DLC supports card-check these days. I wouldn't be surprised if labor-friendly legislation becomes this year's version of the ethanol subsidy--something every Democrat has to rally behind to have a shot at the nomination.
-- Brad Plumer 2:42 PM || ||