Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WSJ: Labor once again makes Dem party tow

the line in spite of shrinking members numbers.


A decade ago, leading Democrats were willing, if not eager, to disagree with union priorities. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bob Kerrey pushed Social Security reform, and John Breaux took on Medicare. Even Al Gore, in his pre-Oracle phase, took on the task of "reinventing government," including the FAA and air-traffic controllers union. Bill Clinton promoted trade expansion, breaking with the AFL-CIO to do so. Still other Democrats pushed charter schools and more education accountability.

Those reform days are over. In Denver, there's no more talk of busting these "public trusts." The only reform idea for education is a tepid call for teacher testing. Free trade is in disrepute, with Barack Obama bowing to union wishes to rewrite Nafta, even unilaterally if Mexico and Canada don't bend. The party platform includes a passing reference to reviving the Doha Round of global trade talks, but nothing about the trade promotion authority that would be needed to pass more trade deals.

More tellingly, rewriting federal law to promote union organizing is now near the top of the Democratic agenda. The main vehicle is "card check" legislation, which would eliminate the requirement for secret ballots in union elections. Unable to organize workers when employees can vote in privacy, unions want to expose those votes to peer pressure, and inevitably to public intimidation. This would arguably be the biggest change to federal labor law since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The Democratic House passed card check last year, and Mr. Obama has pledged his support. With a few more Senators, it might pass.