Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Nuclear Option

The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act which makes the process of unionizing easier and more transparent. Senate Republicans vowed to filibuster the bill. For anyone wondering why Democrats won’t take decisive action on things like fixing the prescription drug program and changing the course of the war in Iraq, there’s your answer — the obstructionist Republican filibuster.

A few years ago when President Bush was nominating controversial Supreme Court justices and Democrats threatened a filibuster, Senate Republicans countered with "the nuclear option". They vowed to end the "tyranny by the minority" by eliminating the ability to filibuster. Only a bi-partisan agreement brokered by the "gang of fourteen", where Democrats promised to filibuster only under "extraordinary circumstances", averted Republicans intent on eliminating the filibuster rule.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Democrats can't sneeze without drawing a Republican filibuster.

This obstructionist tactic will work for Republicans in the short term, but at some point Americans will get annoyed with this small number of minority party legislators thwarting their will. Americans voted for change last November and God help the politician who gets in their way.

If Republicans keep obstructing rather than constructively participating in the governance of this country we'll see a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in Congress and a Democrat in the White House in 2008. Keep it up, McConnell. You're doing the Lord's work.

Posted by American Pundit at March 3, 2007 2:27 AM
Comment #210297

The Dems want to abolish the secret ballot for union certification elections. Thank God the Republicans are willing to defend the right of workers to say no to this blatant pandering to Dem contributors.

This issue is now discussed on all three parts of watchblog. I guess Dems think it is a good thing.

It is amazing that the Dems would so openly give up the ideals they claim to support to pay back a big consituency.

When Dems were out of power, they could claim to be better.

Posted by: Jack at March 3, 2007 8:27 AM
Comment #210310

The beauty of the american system is the fact that the minority does have a say. If people in this country don’t like the fact that fillibusters can be used, I think they should look at the systems of government in say, Canada, or Great Britian. Bush and company had the advantage of a parlimentary system for the last six years. Do you see where that got them? out of power in the house and minority in the senate, in two years most likley out of the presidency. The system is a pain in the neck, but it ultimately works better than any other in the world. As the saying goes: It’s good to be the king!

Posted by: anthony at March 3, 2007 10:46 AM
Comment #210314

Thank God the Republicans are willing to defend the right of workers …

How “Orwellian” of you Jack. The last time Republicans gathered together to defended workers we had only 48 states.

Posted by: Steve K at March 3, 2007 10:58 AM
Comment #210321

I couldn’t agree more, AP.

Posted by: Adrienne at March 3, 2007 11:34 AM
Comment #210337

Great article about a great Democratic achievement. Finally, we are paying attention to the little guy who must work for a living, rather than to the rich plutocrat.

For too long business and its Republican cohorts have done their very best to defang the NLRB and to intimidate workers from joining unions. Now the Democrats have struck a blow for the worker.

We know damn well it will not become law because Republicans, who love business and hate workers, will obfuscate, fillibuster and veto this legislation.

However, there will be a record made. The public will know who is against the worker struggling to make a living. We Democrats will have ammunition to knock off these worker haters and replace them with legislators attuned to the common man in 2008.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at March 3, 2007 2:29 PM
Comment #210356


” Thank God the Republicans are willing to defend the right of workers to say no to this blatant pandering to Dem contributors.”

I hope you are not serious here Jack. Painting the republicans in a picture of sainthood and as the defender of workers rights goes against every notion most working people have of your party. But on the other hand I guess it is good that your virtuous party is looking out for the best interests of us working simpletons. Thanks, but no thanks. I will just have to take my chances with the only party that has ever worked to maintain and further the rights of the american worker. Even despite your feeble attempts at convuluting good legislation.

Posted by: ILdem at March 3, 2007 4:00 PM
Comment #210359


YES. Let the Republicans be known for defending the secret ballot. Go ahead. Spread the news.


About half the voters in America vote Republican and half Democrat in any give election in the last 30 years. I expect most of those people work for a living. THe old idea of “worker” is just an old idea.

The idea that Republicans are defending the right to a secret ballot may be a new idea to you, but it has been a cornerstone of Republican ideals since the Civil War. Back then, the Dems in the South had a bit of a problem with that secret ballot thing too, come to think of it.

Posted by: Jack at March 3, 2007 4:29 PM
Comment #210385

Jack, I agree this whole issue needs to be heard loud and long across this country. The “protect the secret ballot” soundbite sounds good, but if we can get beyond the soundbite to the heart of the matter it will be worthwhile. Hopefully the repubs block this legislation and the dems do go nuclear. Lets draw this thing out and see how long the soundbite lasts. It will crumple in the face of facts my friend.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 3, 2007 8:29 PM
Comment #210391

I think defense of the secret ballot has some staying power.

Posted by: Jack at March 3, 2007 9:17 PM
Comment #210421

I actually wish I hadn’t mentioned the Employee Free Choice Act. I only used it as the latest example of Republican obstructionism.

If all Republicans can do is obstruct rather than participate constructively, I think Democrats must consider the nuclear option. We must get rid of the filibuster.

…I’m joking of course. Voters will take care of the obstructionist Republicans next year. Mostly, I’m poking fun at Republicans who for over a decade passed rules that weakened the minority party in our political system — and who are now in a position where all they can do is filibuster.

Republicans made the rules that shut out the minority party when bills are crafted. They never even considered the possibility that they might one day be the minority. Now they’re sucking the bitter lemons they planted.

I’m sure this lesson is lost on Republican voters. I can’t wait to hear the howls when President Hillary exercises her “unitary executive” ability — nay, duty — to secretly spy upon and make disappear American citizens she alone deems enemies of The State… and her Presidency.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 3, 2007 11:17 PM
Comment #210422


Didn’t Hillary already do this a decade ago?

Posted by: Rhinehold at March 3, 2007 11:23 PM
Comment #210428

And Republicans are giving her the dictatorial “unilateral executive” powers to do it right this time.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 3, 2007 11:52 PM
Comment #210440


Yeah. I can see Dems are really scared. None have dared say a word against Bush in the last six years.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2007 12:41 AM
Comment #210454

Lefties rejoice!
The Dems are in power and are looking out for you!
Reality check…
Politicians are politicians. The Dems are just showing off the public as usual. The Reps are doing what they can to upstart the Dems. Its all true. The Dems are trying to cozy up to the unions. The Reps are trying to make the Dems look bad. The gang of fourteen? Power grab. Has ever a small minority wielded so much power?
Maybe the Dems can rename their party, the Socialist Workers Party.

Posted by: JoeRWC at March 4, 2007 9:32 AM
Comment #210463

Good piece. You notice that the filbuster tactic gives them the opportunity to NOT seek any compromise on this piece of legislation. For example,what if the Dems agreed to get rid of the card check and allow secret ballot elections but made them timely? Not allowing employers time to threaten workers etc. What if the other provisions in the law went forward? Making labor law violators personally liable. Requireing arbitration on first contract impasses. The Reps would have too figure out some other way of opposing it to suck up to their owners. Instead they can play filibuster.
Any of our presidential hopefuls endorsed the bill yet? Whoever does will recieve a tremendous boost from labor. Not just money but ground troops including myself.This bill is the decider. It is the key to the Whitehouse.

Listening to you,a small business owner,on this issue is like listening to a used car salesman. Sorry,no veracity. Not just about the card check but ridiculous,out of touch statements like unions are not needed anymore. In spite of evidence that most workers still work with their hands,you manage to not believe it. That workers are not getting a fair share is obvious but not to you. That most workers would be union if they could is evidential but no amount of proof will convince you. That employers threaten workers trying to organize in a denial of their rights is clear but you manage to overlook that. Point is that as an employer you have no credibility on this issue. It is like if you were a judge in a beauty pagent your daughter was in.
No? Then do you support making managers personally liable for labor law violations? What kind of spin does the Heritage Foundation feed you on that aspect of the bill? Let me guess. It will be anti-lawyer drivvel. Personally,I would give them jail time for those violations.How about you?

Posted by: BillS at March 4, 2007 10:55 AM
Comment #210465

Listening to you,a small business owner,on this issue is like listening to a used car salesman. Sorry,no veracity”

I’m not a business owner. I belonged to CWA Local 3204 in Atlanta Ga. for about 18 years. I’ll back up most of what Jack has said .

Now you can try to find some way to discredit me.

Posted by: tomd at March 4, 2007 11:49 AM
Comment #210473


If the workers want at a firm a union, they should have one. I personally am not a union advocate, but that would not be my business. All that I am saying is that you have to give the employees a chance to have a choice free from coercion. If you are right, if they all want to join unions, presumably they will say so.

We do not need to speculate on what “they” want. We can ask them.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2007 1:40 PM
Comment #210486

Exactly. The way it work now workers are subjected to coercion by employers. Mandatory meetings without the union present,one on one threats and intimidation, transfer or firings of particularly odious supervisors(brought back after the campaign),promotions etc. for identified union leaders to try and buy them(also usually short term), addressing grievances(at least temporarily),.Things happen like all of a sudden they start providing work gloves or put a privacy door on the toilet. I am not kidding. I have seen this. I am a part time organizer for the Carpenters Union.If the campaign is defeated,usually in the first year ,every one of the pro-union workers identified as leaders winds up fired. Not all at once but one at a time on some pretext or another. The improvments to conditions go away also.Remember we are not dealing with good companies here. Unless at a minimum there are 80% of the workers so pissed they are willing to risk their jobs unions will not even start a campaign.There is no point.

I did not say that all workers want to join unions. Most do and why not? Union members earn 20-30 % more over their careers and have beter retirements.

I would never consider trying to discredit you. I could never do as good a job of it as you do consistently.I think my favorite (was that you?) talking about the “misery of higher wages” or some such re. minimum wage increase.Had me in stitches.

Posted by: BillS at March 4, 2007 3:31 PM
Comment #210490


Unions are better for the established. Not so good for those trying to break in.

I would ask a few questions re the 20% more figure.

- Unions tend to be concentrated in established industries that CAN pay more. You are comparing different things.
- Unions tend to be concentrated in higher cost of living industrial areas. A automaker buying power in Kentucky might be higher than one in Michigan, although his wages are 10% lower.
- People tend to get union jobs after they are exprienced. There is no doubt that union workers are often better than non-union workers, but it is not true that the union accounts for this.
- Are you counting lifetime income? A lot of those highly paid union workers lost their jobs because of union cost structures. It is great to make $20 an hour, but if you lose that job it does not help that some of your union colleagues are stil making the big bucks.

That last point is the strongest case against a union and one an employer has the right to make.

Unions did well in the 1950s because there was essentially a static market. Employers and unions had a good thing going. Firms could pay more and pass the costs along to consumers. It was great for insiders.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #210492

I would never consider trying to discredit you. I could never do as good a job of it as you do consistently.I think my favorite (was that you?) talking about the “misery of higher wages” or some such re. minimum wage increase.Had me in stitches.

Posted by: BillS at March 4, 2007 03:31 PM”

No it wasn’t me. Don’t surprise me that you can’t remember. You can’t even get my name right.

Posted by: tomd at March 4, 2007 4:24 PM
Comment #210508

JoeRWC, maybe they will after the repubs change to Corporate fascist inc. party! But I wouldnt hold my breathe.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 4, 2007 6:51 PM
Comment #210509

Apologies for the name error.

We were talking about unions trying to organize new workers.How is that not good for those trying to” break in”.
My experience has been with building trades unions. My union,the Carpenters,has an open door policy. We want anyone that is out there making a living as a carpenter to join.The initiation fee is about 60 bucks. They must have convinced somebody they know what they are doing. The thinking behind it is that even if you have have 100% employment for all your members,if you only have 30 members you still do not have sh**.Most large building trades union have a similar strategy or are moving towards it. There are some that are more restrictive,the sheet metal guys for example that are clinging to the old ways. This is a hot debate topic among us. Inclusion is winning.
All the building trades have extensive trainning programs. These are top notch programs. We offer a 4 year apprentice program that ends with a BS from the state college system. It is on the job training and classroom work. In English or Spanish by the way.Upgrade trainning is also available for journeymen. The Operateing Engineers have a great program. You do not really think they let some kid just jump on a million dollar piece of equiptment and see how he does?
I is easy to see you live in a low wage state. 20$ an hour is not much here in CA. Of course a house will cost an easy half mil.
That 20% figure is from the AFLCIO so is recent polling about worker interest in unions.It is increasing. Check their site and look at methodology with you critical eye.
What this really comes down to is economic justice. The Wagner Act was a New Deal mechanism to allow more equitable wealth distribution. It,as well as the rest of the New Deal was put in place to maintain the free market system. If it had not occured we likely would have plunged into revolution. I know you understand this. The Taft Hartly Amendments were passed over Trumans veto to hobble that effort. The need for a resurgence is the same as the original need. The income imbalance is unstable. Granted stability can be maintained for some time by various repressive means but only for a time. Remember we are Americans,born to the waters of Jeffersons Tree of Liberty. Unions are a peaceful,relatively painless way of rebalanceing inequities. By hobbling unions we will face the whirlwind sooner or later.Surely as a historian crowded prisons,unpopular wars,great income disparites must raise some alarm bells for you.

Sorry to get so far off thread. It would not bother me a bit if the Dems invoked the “nuclear option”. If the REPs want to compromise on this bill there is room for it but that is not the intent here. The obvious intent is to block it. The country needs some sweeping changes and this is just one of them. If they plan to block them all then it is indeed time to play hardball.

Posted by: BillS at March 4, 2007 6:59 PM
Comment #210545
The initiation fee is about 60 bucks.

What are the union dues afterwards? Nearly everyone I know in my family work for one trade union or another (sheet metal, painting, electricians, etc).

An example, one family member is paying $200 a week to her union in dues. Are they really getting back over $200 a week in return to make that investment worthwhile? Obviously in their minds they are but I wonder…

So I’m curious what kind of dues others pay?

Posted by: Rhinehold at March 5, 2007 9:07 AM
Comment #210601


You make good points re training and I will give them to you. I hope all unions are like that.

Re Taft-Hartley. When was that? 1947? All these years we have had the secret ballot provision and it didn’t cripple labor. Labor’s problem now is that it has failed to adapt to the more fluid work situations. If your union is doing it, I applaud you. If I needed a carpenter, I would certainly be willing to pay more for a guy who knew what he was doing rather than pay for repairs later. That is a good union selling point and a value added.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2007 5:09 PM
Comment #210603
1947? All these years we have had the secret ballot provision and it didn’t cripple labor.

It’s not the secret ballot provision that’s crippling labor, it’s the constant assault by management and their bought-and-paid-for Republican legislators and presidents since the 80s.

This bill is — hopefully — the first step in rebalancing the relationship between labor and management.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 5, 2007 5:22 PM
Comment #210612


I hear labor didn’t get a very good deal buying politicians. The ones they got are doing their bidding, but they are unable to make changes.

If the secret ballot is not the point, why not leave it in?

I think BillS makes a good point of explaining where a union adds value and is flexible. If unions would adapt, they might prosper.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2007 6:06 PM
Comment #210638

In the SF Bay Area we pay 18.50 a month over the counter. It just went down from 20. Not a big reduction but what else has gone down. We also pay about 1.30 an hour. Dues are a write off for most as a work expense. I think I get value for it personally.

Taft-Hartly has been crippling unions since inception. That is what is was for. That is the reason why some states will forever be low wage states. One provision that really irks me is that we are not allowed to control our own money. Like workers are too stupid and corrupt to take care of ourselves. Of course the trust provisions were put in to check the power our funds might wield in the market. More government interference with the marketplace?Should you wish to point out past corruption I will point out close oversite. You can bring up Jimmy’s ghost again. Anything he did pales next to Centennial Savings, Enron ad nauseum plus the members never lost any money.
The provisions against secondary boycotts clearly violate the first amendment.
Probably the most damaging is the provisions that allow management the opportunity to intimidate workers before an election. As I said before,they have had plenty of time to prove that they treat their workers fairly and that is what the elections are really all about.
Inttresting that we both worked longshoreing as one of our first jobs. I worked “exra-man” also meaning I was not a union member. I thought it was great,myself. Then again that was the late 60s and a bag of weed and a couple of hippie chicks was all I really wanted.(Ah,youth). I worked in SF back when it was still a port city. Containers were new. So were hardhat requirements. I remember the old hands would take off their hardhats and put on their white berets as soon as they could. They were real longshoremen and damned proud of it. Some had been through the the Great San Fransisco General Strike and had stories you would not believe. A different introduction to the labor movement I guess.

Posted by: Bills at March 5, 2007 8:50 PM
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