Specter received $235,350 in 2008 from Blank Rome LLP a self described “union avoidance” law firm with offices in nine states and, appropriately, Communist China. Union busting law firms thrived after Ronald Reagan fired the PATCO workers, setting off a wave of union busting. The union busting consulting industry advises clients on strategies to prevent workers from forming unions and tactics to destroy existing union contracts. While they do not counsel clients to break the law, they inform them of the relatively minor consequences.
In his statement yesterday Specter doesn’t mention the contribution only parrots his benefactor’s talking points: “Regrettably, there has been widespread intimidation on both sides. Testimony shows union officials visit workers’ homes with strong-arm tactics and refuse to leave until cards are signed. Similarly, employees have complained about being captives in employers’ meetings with threats of being fired and other strong-arm tactics.” While he must know the first statement is untrue, knowing the second is true and supporting employers’ strong-arm tactics openly is stunning.
Specter loses what little dignity he has left by mentioning the opposition’s canard the “secret ballot”: “On the merits, the issue which has emerged at the top of the list for me is the elimination of the secret ballot which is the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a democratic society.” There is no provision for eliminating any method of voting in the Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA simply transfers the power to decide from the employer to the employee.
Specter is often taunted as a RINO (Republican in name only) by the extreme right in his party for his past respect for women and workers. Facing a challenge in the 2010 Republican Party primary, Specter has chosen to throw away his integrity in the name of political expediency. Anyone looking for a reason to believe that politicians don’t act in the best interest of the nation now has a prime example.
The Employee Free Choice Act will re-establish the rule of law in the American workplace by placing real penalties on employers who engage in illegal behavior. The EFCA allows workers to negotiate with their employer after a majority approve in a simple card check vote. Workers may chose to have a second vote prior to negotiating but unlike the current system where employers make that choice the EFCA would put the choice in the hands of workers. Only after a good faith agreement is reached and approved in a majority secret ballot vote do workers have a union.
The passage of the Employee Free Choice Act hinges on the ability to win cloture with the support of 60 senators as the Republican minority will not allow the measure on the floor since it would be approved by a clear majority in an up or down vote. Senator Specter has now sold his reputation and betrayed American workers for less than a quarter million dollars — a real bargain in this economy.
Ron Moore is a freelance writer living in Silver Spring, Maryland with decades of service in the grassroots community as a local union president, union organizer, national AFL-CIO staff, and writer for the A. Philip Randolph Institute. Moore writes on labor and other issues at The Examiner, a citizen’s journalism site.