According to insiders with whom I've just spoken (as of last night, 7pm EST), the labor / commerce Congressional sub-committee, charged with getting the Employee Free Choice Act through the House, have just gutted the legislation by stripping it of card-check neutrality. "Card-check," as it's referred to, would have erased (or at least numbed) several decades of right-to-work anti-union legislation, making it once again (as it is in many industrialized countries) a right for workers to have a legally recognized union by showing simple membership-majority--"checked" via a neutral third party (an arbitration judge, for instance). This provision was the Employee Free Choice Act. It was what those of us within the labor movement, including friend, colleague (and despite what I'm about to say) deeply committed unionist, Stuart Acuff (vice president of the AFL-CIO), have been fighting for, shaping, designing, for nearly a decade.
This is news that means several things, not least of which: the labor movement under Obama will have no resurgence. We, as workers, will continue to have fewer rights, and we as a labor movement will continue to shrink. That this legislation has been gutted is one sign of how weak, in fact politically irrelevant, the labor movement has become. And this point is what I'd like to focus on here. In two parts, brief, so we can all ponder them in their starkness:
1) the majority of those who gutted the Employee Free Choice Act are those whose elections to office were (in part or in whole) made possible by labor organizing and endorsement. I'm told that Obama officials had a hand in pressuring the committee to kill the legislation, despite Obama's promises to support it. So, there you go. Says a great deal about Obama. Says even more about why we need not, nor should not, as a labor movement, put money and energy into elected officials.
2) Due to (1), and, due, I think, to incredible unwillingness to take the risks necessary - e.g., to be militant and organize more wild cat strikes, to organize more in the south, to be more intelligently "on the offense" when it comes to workplace organzing (in terms of $$ as well as tactically) - THE AFL-CIO is EFFECTIVELY COVERING THIS UP. I am not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch, but there is a scramble within the AFL (and within Andy-the-manager-Stern's camp too) to figure out how to spin this such that the AFL and New Directions come out looking good, that the labor movement comes out looking a winner on this as a piece of nothing legislation finally winds its way around the House and Senate until Obama signs it and everyone smiles and shakes hands for the cameras.
To reiterate--the AFL-CIO is saying nothing, is doing very little other than figuring out how to take a shower and smell nice. As evidence, here's the latest set of AFL blog posts. They went out over the wires this morning, well after the Act was officially gutted, and not a word about it (as of July 17, 10:51pm ET).
What to do? Eventually we'll need to organize from the bottom up, strategically, intelligently, but militantly - where the term "strike," we remember does noes not have four letters. Meantime, call members of the sub-committee and tell them you want card-check. Also call Obama's office and say the same thing. But just as importantly, contact the AFL-CIO and (as a suggestion) say that you only support a labor movement that supports laborers, i.e., card check.