The backers of Card Check put themselves in a box after three retailers floated a compromise that would have meant the end of both the arbitration and the Card Check portions of the EFCA.  Despite bleeding moderates that want to find a middle ground and avoid the elimination of the secret ballot, Card Check advocates insisted that they would not compromise on any of their demands.  The result will likely put a stake through the heart of Card Check for this session:

An alternative offered by three of America’s largest corporations to a labor bill that would facilitate union organizing has been shunned by the legislation’s most prominent champions on Capitol Hill.

Costco, Starbucks and Whole Foods offered the alternative to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) Sunday to open up a different approach to reforming labor law. Known as the Committee for a Level Playing Field, the coalition has been met by harsh words from lawmakers in Congress.

“This proposal is unacceptable. It was written by CEOs for CEOs. It is not a serious attempt at labor law reform because it fails to fundamentally address key problems that currently prevent workers from being able to join together and bargain for a better life,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in a joint statement.

Unfortunately for Harkin and Miller, they’re discovering that they’re on the fringe rather than the mainstream on Card Check.  They had plenty of support when support was essentially meaningless, as George Bush would have vetoed the bill even if they got it passed through Congress, which they have never yet done.  Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, many of their former allies have retreated on EFCA, especially in the current business climate.

The compromise plan effectively enables moderates to hold out.  They can point to Lanny Davis’ involvement in tubing the card-check and arbitration provisions as legitimate concerns over the more radical proposal from Harkin and Miller.  They have no reason now to move to the left on Card Check.  It probably couldn’t get 60 votes before the compromise proposal, and it may not even get a majority after it.

In any event, it seems very unlikely to get out of Congress in this session.  As reluctant as moderates are to pass Card Check this year, they’ll be even more skittish in an election year, especially if the Obama administration keeps fumbling the economy and railroading radical expansions of government.  In 2011, Congress will probably look very different than it does now, and Obama will need to start shifting towards moderates in order to campaign for re-election.   Card Check looks more and more like a dead letter.

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