Special-interest payback: EFCA

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
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Dance with the ones who brung you

Barack Obama might not be president-elect without the tens of millions that organized labor spent on his behalf.

Now, a union-backed organization is hoping to hold Obama to one of his promises. It is launching an early salvo in what could be a major fight at the start of the new administration.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

The group, American Rights at Work, plans to start airing its new ad on Sunday, hoping to build support for the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation authored by Rep. George Miller, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.

American Rights at Work was founded by David Bonior, a former Democratic congressman from Michigan. Now, Bonior is part of Obama’s transition team of economic advisors, and stood along side various members from Wall Street and Washington when Obama held his first press conference last week.

“When it comes to looking for economic solutions for the middle class, this should be a top priority,” said Josh Goldstein, the group’s spokesman.

Goldstein noted that Obama and Joe Biden both cosponsored the legislation when they were in the Senate. Obama talked of the need for the measure while on the campaign trail, particularly when addressing union leaders and workers.

The measure would make it less difficult for unions to organize workers. It also would impose penalties on employers for unfair labor practices, including triple back pay for workers who are wrongfully fired.

Organizers would gather support by convincing workers to sign union cards, rather than holding secret-ballot elections.

Once a majority agree to join, the employer would be obliged to negotiate a contract. If the sides fail to reach an accord within the 90 days, they could call for mediation, and unresolved contracts would go to binding arbitration.

Glenn Spencer, the chamber executive leading the fight to kill the measure, said he expects that the House would approve the measure but hopes to block it in the Senate.

“From the perspective of the White House, President-elect Obama needs to think about how much political capital he wants to put behind this,” Spencer said, adding that if it is approved in the first 100 days, it is “going to look like a special-interest payback.

“This is probably not the first bill you’d want to put your weight behind,” Spencer said.


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