In the last session of Congress, Democrats eventually retreated from Card Check despite holding large majorities in both chambers, with a President in the White House willing to sign it. Senate Republicans in this session of Congress appear less tentative in pursuing their own version of labor reform. Piggybacking off of Scott Walker’s efforts in Wisconsin, eight Republicans introduced the National Right to Work Act which would end closed shops throughout the nation:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), introduced the National Right to Work Act to “reduce workplace discrimination by protecting the free choice of individuals to form, join, or assist labor organizations, or to refrain from such activities,” according to a statement.
Seven other Republicans signed onto the effort: Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and David Vitter (La.).
“Facing a steady decline in membership, unions have turned to strong-arm political tactics to make forced unionization the default position of every American worker, even if they don’t want it,” Hatch said. “This is simply unacceptable. At the very least, it should be the policy of the U.S. government to ensure that no employee will be forced to join a union in order to get or keep their job.”
Republicans cited a recent poll they said shows that 80 percent of union members support having their policy and that “Right to Work” states outperform “forced-union” states in factors that affect worker well being.
Of course, this doesn’t have a prayer of passing, at least not as a standalone bill. The House could pass a similar bill with no problem, but even the most moderate of red-state Democrats won’t vote to kneecap union dues collection, not when those dues go towards keeping Democrats in office. That is the main reason that Wisconsin’s fleebaggers won’t return and allow the state to have a functioning legislature — because they’ll be signing their political death warrants if they do. Even if the bill managed to escape Congress by getting at least 13 Democratic votes in the Senate, Barack Obama would waste no time in vetoing the bill.
That might prove to be a useful exercise, though. If Republicans can force a floor vote on the bill — and they could use a discharge petition to do so, under certain conditions — it would force Democrats to either vote against it and endorse forced union membership and dues collections, or to filibuster it on the record to the same effect. Democrats will paint this effort as “union-busting,” but unlike the necessarily more targeted focus in Wisconsin, this bill instead offers a broad defense of individual rights in the country as a whole.
If nothing else, the introduction of this bill forces Democrats to play defense rather than push again for Card Check for their own symbolic purposes. As long as workers are forced to join unions as a condition of working in certain jobs, there is no justification whatsoever for stripping them of the secret ballot to determine whether those unions can take their money in the first place. It’s a Card Check checkmate.