Sen. Lincoln: It’s Not Necessary For My Constituents To Earn Higher Wages Or Have Better Benefits

While giving herself “room to support the measure if it’s brought up later,” Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said yesterday that “she doesn’t think federal legislation that would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret-ballot elections is necessary.” The legislation in question is the Employee Free Choice Act, which allow workers to form a union if a majority sign cards of consent, instead of having to undergo a full and very often unfair “election” process.

The Weekly Standard called this a “shrewd move by Lincoln” as “unions are sure to apply increasing pressure to undecided Senators as the session gets under way and a vote draws nearer.” However, it’s only a shrewd move if Lincoln is against seeing her own constituents earn higher wages and have better benefits.

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.


But there is a potential explanation for Lincoln’s denial of support for the Free Choice Act. As Matthew Yglesias noted, Arkansas is “poverty-stricken and features ultra low wages. But guess who likes low wages? Wal-Mart. And guess who loves Wal-Mart? Arkansas politicians like Blanche Lincoln.”

And guess what Walmart doesn’t love? Unions:

“We like driving the car,” [Walmart CEO Lee] Scott told the Associated Press earlier this month when explaining his opposition to employee free choice, “and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”

As David Madland noted, “Corporations rather than workers are increasingly rewarded for growth in the economy.” Unionization could help temper that trend, and it will take lawmakers looking out for the interests of workers instead of CEOs to make it happen.