A chat with a staffer at Union Facts yesterday reminded me: "Hey, what's going on at CPAC is far less important than what's happening in Congress at the moment." Indeed, what happened yesterday was that Democrats pushed the most impactful reform of union rights since, arguably, Taft-Hartley.
The House voted 241-185 for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to unionize by simply signing a card or petition stating their interest in joining a union, as opposed to the long-standing practice of secret-ballot elections.
In other words it hands unions more power to coerce people into joining—an idea that's danced across the labor movement's dreams for years. In the WSJ, Kimberley Strassel argues that this tremendously unpopular idea represents the end of the Democrats' honeymoon and a new beginning for the beat-down, divided GOP.
Labor explained that any union support they received in their tight races in GOP-leaning districts would be entirely conditioned on their later vote for card check. Most of them signed up for this devil's bargain, since, as one Democratic aide admitted: "We didn't have a choice."
The business community this week made sure that those Democratic moderates felt the burn. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace–a group of more than 300 business outfits against the card check–earlier this week laid out a six-figure radio buy for just three House districts, targeting North Carolina's Heath Shuler, Florida's Tim Mahoney and Kansas's Nancy Boyda. All three ran as conservative Democrats, and have only tenuous grips on their seats. The Chamber of Commerce spent another $400,000 on radio ads targeting 51 Republicans and Democrats who are also vulnerable next year. The ads had an effect. Card-check supporters had been hoping to get as many as 290 votes; instead they mustered just 241.
After breaking down to support most of the Democrats' "100 Hours" bills, the GOP caucus is cohering again, and getting noticeably more aggressive in the process. Grist for the idea that they needed to lose one election to regain their bearings. (And if you think "Yeah, but until they do, we've got card check," this isn't going to pass the Senate.)