During an event at the Center for American Progress last week, CAP Senior Fellow Matt Miller warned President-elect Barack Obama against passing the Employee Free Choice Act, because it could “poison the well” between business and labor:
I think the flashpoint might be the card check thing…Going for things like the Employee Free Choice Act could poison the well for universal health coverage because it will just lead to a decimating fight on both sides.
Miller forgot that the well has already been poisoned by the Bush administration, which for the last eight years has catered to big business, at the expense of American workers. It’s time to construct a new well.
A good place to start would be the Employee Free Choice Act, which Bush threatened to veto after it passed the House last year. The bill is opposed by big businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, but solidly supported by the public. In fact, an AFL-CIO poll released last week showed that 73 percent of adults support the provisions laid out in the legislation.
While Miller seems stuck in Bush’s era, progressives are looking for change by creating an atmosphere in which businesses don’t get to dictate the terms and conditions of every debate all the time. According to Roll Call, Obama’s transition team has introduced business lobbyists to a “shocking new reality“:
Top business officials accustomed to red-carpet treatment in the Bush White House say they must stand in line in the cold outside [Obama] transition headquarters along with people they don’t recognize, waiting to be cleared to meet with Obama staffers they don’t know.
This is a symbolic move, but represents a wider shift toward restoring the balance for workers by the President-elect. Consider:
- Today, Obama announced that he dropped a business tax credit that was “ripe for abuse” from his economic stimulus proposal.
- Obama plans to retain the estate tax, arguing that a large tax break “shouldn’t go into force halfway through Mr. Obama’s proposed economic-recovery package.”
- Obama’s transition team announced wide restrictions on corporate lobbyists that the Washington Independent called a “180-degree reversal of the policies of President George W. Bush.”
- Obama supported striking workers at the Chicago-based factory Republic Windows and Doors, saying, “The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned, I think they’re absolutely right.”
On the campaign trail, Obama criticized his opponent for “putting corporations ahead of workers.” The Employee Free Choice Act is a strong step toward putting corporations and workers on more equal footing.