After telling Planned Parenthood that the Freedom of Choice Act was his first priority and the unions that the EFCA was his top issue, it seems as though Barack Obama has managed to avoid both in his first few weeks in office.  Yesterday, though, the new president sent a video message to an AFL-CIO leadership meeting insisting that he had not forgotten about his union pals.  Obama pledged to get Card Check passed this year:

“We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” President Obama told more than 100 top labor officials in a closed-door meeting at the labor federation’s winter gathering in Miami, according to people at the meeting.

The bill would make it easier for unions to recruit workers because it would let them join unions simply by signing cards rather than through secret-ballot elections in which companies can campaign against the union. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have been campaigning against the legislation.

The president’s remarks were taped on Feb. 20, according to a White House spokesman. Following his remarks, AFL-CIO officials held a meeting with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Separately, on Wednesday, the AFL-CIO is expected to ask the administration to take a controlling stake in banks that receive government funding and a more active role in restructuring their balance sheets. “We believe the debate over nationalization is delaying the inevitable bank restructuring, which is something our economy cannot afford,” reads a draft of an AFL-CIO statement. Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, is a member of the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

After six weeks of market crashes, it’s hard to see how Obama could foul things up any further — but this would do it.  Passing Card Check at this time, with its bypass of the secret ballot and the force of government arbitration behind labor disputes, would send the few capital venture groups screaming out of the marketplace.  With assets losing value by the minute and consumer spending at a standstill, the last thing the private sector needs is a hike in labor costs, which is exactly what the EFCA would provide, even disregarding its abuse of American workers.

It’s interesting that Obama isn’t talking about this in public.  In the context of today’s market turmoil, it’s understandable, but what does it mean?  Does Obama intend on pushing Card Check and stripping American workers of the protection of the secret ballot?  Or is Obama pandering to union leaders while keeping his powder dry on labor?

I’d bet that Obama isn’t quite foolish enough to push yet another market-killing bill, but then again, I had also thought that the principle of not raising taxes in a recession was pretty well established by now.

Previous posts on Card Check: