An Unmistakable Warning To Big Labor's Supporters

Katie Gage
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Posted: Jun 14, 2010 3:28 PM
An Unmistakable Warning To Big Labor's Supporters

For months, small businesses and their allies in Washington, D.C. and across the country have been warning anyone who would listen that the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA) was a job-killer both for workers and politicians who endorsed the legislation.

And for months, the political establishment has listened, but failed to heed the clarion call coming from the grassroots. Arkansas is not the first instance where a politician failed to stand up to Big Labor, or state a clear position on EFCA, and felt the pain at the ballot box.

Rush Limbaugh

Last year, in Virginia, Bob McDonnell aggressively campaigned against forced unionization, while Creigh Deeds accepted Big Labor’s contributions and failed to take a convincing stand against the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act. The result? McDonnell crushed Deeds and enjoyed significant support from the business community in his campaign, which played a noteworthy role in his ability to compete successfully in northern Virginia, as well as in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas.

This year, in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter made one of the most disingenuous conversions on an issue in recent memory when he stated his support for EFCA after having opposed it based on the fact it would hurt Pennsylvania small businesses and result in lost jobs. While both Specter and Joe Sestak supported the job-killing legislation in the Democratic primary, and each had support from labor unions, the damage done to Specter’s image when he shifted positions on the issue in conjunction with his party change played a determinative role in sealing his fate with the electorate.

And those developments led us to The Natural State. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) boss Richard Trumka, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boss Mary Kay Henry and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) boss Gerald McEntee decided to make an example of incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln for opposing both the job-killing Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act and labor radical Craig Becker’s nomination to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

And don’t take the business community’s word for it, just ask, former President Bill Clinton who said precisely that while campaigning for Lincoln in the state.

In Arkansas, in an unprecedented campaign by Big Labor costing more than 10 million dollars, union bosses tried to knock off an incumbent Senator both in a primary and runoff election for opposing their chief legislative priority. They failed once in the primary and failed again in the runoff.

Even though Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter’s effort was fueled by direct contributions on the part of labor bosses, he ducked and dodged any and every mention of EFCA. He couldn’t answer a basic, fundamental question: do you support or oppose legislation in Congress that your opponent has taken a position on? He was asked in town hall meetings, in debates, on television interviews, and time and again he refused to state his position to the public, while making private commitments to union heads.

Lincoln opposed EFCA. Senate candidate D.C. Morrison opposed it too. Congressman Mike Ross opposed the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act in his campaign. And Bill Halter’s boss, Governor Mike Beebe opposed the job-killing legislation as well.

But Halter couldn’t articulate a position on the legislation to save his life. He repeatedly claimed that EFCA was a “non-issue”, while both U.S. Senators from Arkansas, as well as Big Labor bosses publicly stated that the bill was very much alive. All while, Halter accepted extraordinary financial support from Trumka, Henry and McEntee.

The result was that Halter appeared slick and owned by national interests in Washington, while falsely claiming he would serve as an agent of change and represent Arkansans. Voters ended up rejecting both Halter and his financiers in Big Labor.

The message sent to labor bosses supporting the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act couldn’t have been clearer. The public opposes job-killing forced unionization and will not support candidates – even in a Democratic primary or runoff campaign – bought and paid for by national unions. Furthermore, if a candidate supports EFCA or refuses to take an honest stand on the legislation, their fate will be the same, rejection on Election Day.

This should serve as notice to candidates like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada and Jack Conway in Kentucky who support EFCA, and Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado who refuses to take a position. Standing with Big Labor bosses on this issue, or refusing to disclose your position, is a sure sign that you don’t stand with voters in your state.

While the political prognosticators have just now come to understand the impact EFCA has on the ground in political contests, the small business community has been well aware for some time and won’t cede an inch in this debate, not today or tomorrow. The effect the job-killing Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act has on the public debate cannot be disputed, just ask Bill Halter who went from being Big Labor’s golden child to becoming its sacrificial lamb.