The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is set to be one of the early battles between progressives and conservatives in the 111th Congress. The bill would give workers the option to form a union through a “card-check” system, in which a union would be recognized if a majority of workers signed a petition testifying to their desire to organize.
With the right wing and big business interests lining up against the measure, progressives need all the support they can get in Congress. However, the AP reports today that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is indicating she may vote against the measure:
Sen. Blanche Lincoln says she doesn’t think federal legislation that would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret-ballot elections is necessary. But in an interview with The Associated Press today, Lincoln gave herself room to support the measure if it’s brought up later.
Business and labor groups are pressuring the Democratic senator from Arkansas for support either way. Tim Griffin, a potential challenger to the senator’s 2010 re-election bid, has said her stand could be an issue in the race.
Lincoln’s potential opposition to EFCA is troubling. After all, unionization helps improve the economic conditions of workers, and Arkansas is in dire need of economic help. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out:
In 2007, just 8.8 percent of Arkansas workers were members of unions. That same year, an Arkansas worker’s average weekly wage was $712, which was 44th in the nation.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research has found that “unionization raises the wages of the typical low-wage worker (one in the 10th percentile) by 20.6 percent.” Furthermore, were the Free Choice Act to pass, it is estimated that an additional 14,157 workers in Arkansas would receive health insurance, while 11,164 would receive pension benefits.
Matt Yglesias, however, finds one reason Lincoln may be unwilling to back EFCA: Wal-Mart. The megastore has a long history of opposing unions, and Lincoln — along with other Arkansas politicians — are strong backers of Wal-Mart.
Who will win Lincoln’s vote? Wal-Mart or her struggling constituents?