Last night, conservatives in the Senate blocked the proposed $14 billion loan to General Motors and Chrysler. As Ali Frick notes over at ThinkProgress, conservatives blamed the bill’s failure on the United Auto Workers (UAW) refusal to accept steep concessions — introduced in a pay-cut amendment by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) — that would have effectively neutered the union.
But various media outlets have reported that blocking the bill also had a wider purpose: sticking it to labor unions in advance of the anticipated debate over the Employee Free Choice Act. Often referred to as “card check,” the Free Choice Act would level the playing field for workers looking to form a union.
As the LA Times reported today, conservatives circulated “an action alert” calling for lawmakers to “stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor”:
In doing so, analysts said, Republicans were planting the seeds for a fundraising appeal to big business — other than the Big Three, of course — as they gear up for a major political fight next year over expected legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.
The BBC noted this line from the conservative talking points:
This is the Democrats’ first opportunity to pay off organised labour after the election. This is a precursor to card-check and other items.
If the rescue loan was a “pay off” to the unions, it was a pretty lousy one, considering the UAW made serious concessions — including delaying Big Three payments into a retiree health care fund — as a prerequisite to the rescue bill proceeding.
Furthermore, conservatives denied the automakers their loan — potentially causing further harm to an already dismal economy — for the sake of preemptively sending a message on legislation that can help the economy. As David Madland and Harley Shaiken point out, competitiveness is “linked to productivity, quality, and innovation — all of which can be enhanced with higher wages” derived from unionization.
Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama said that he wants to “strengthen the union movement in this country and put an end to the kinds of barriers and roadblocks that are in the way of workers legitimately coming together in order to form a union and bargain collectively.” It would appear that conservatives are already gearing up for the fight, even if that means sacrificing America’s auto industry and all the jobs that go along with it.