Specter's Opposition Could Sink Card Check

As word swirled of an announcement, Huffington Post put it this way:

If true, it represents a major blow for EFCA supporters. Specter was the one Senate Republican to vote for cloture when the bill came to the floor in 2007. And with 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, his defection presents a major parliamentary hurdle for the legislation's passage.

Most of the controversy concerns the effort to replace secret ballots with cards signed in the presence of union officials. But recently the mandatory arbitration portion of the bill has gotten more attention. During a recent earnings call with investors, the general counsel of Fed Ex, Chris Richards, explained what is at stake:

The most important thing that people have really not focused on with respect to this legislation is this arbitration provision. What it would require is that when a union is elected that the employer and the union negotiate for a very short period of time, 120 days, at which point if no contract has been reached an arbitrator who has no responsibility to the employee, to the management, or to the shareowners of that company, would impose an agreement that would set the wages and benefits for those employees for a two year period.

What this means is that a person who maybe knows nothing about the industry or knows little would be setting those rates for wages and benefits. One could logically expect that in some cases they will set a rate that is too high for the company to compete effectively in its business or in some instances they may set a rate that is so low that employees cannot be attracted and the employees would not be able to find compensation that would allow them to perform the work.

The most egregious part of this is that this arbitrator would have no accountability to the shareowners of a particular business. If you look at the need for American business as a whole and not just FedEx to remain competitive one of the clearest things that is apparent from this current economic situation is that businesses must be able to control their costs and balance the needs of their employees to have a stable job opportunity with a successful business against the need for making cuts in certain areas to provide an opportunity for the business to remain profitable.

This arbitration provision is not just bad for FedEx its bad for business as a whole and I think that's why you're seeing a lot of people particularly Senators up in Washington starting to look at this and recognize that this bill has the potential to negatively impact the existence and creation of jobs in the US going forward.

The combination of ferocious opposition from conservatives and business groups and the attempt by Big Labor to bully Specter into supporting card check seems to have finally pushed the quirky Pennsylvania Republican over the edge. And certainly the emergence of primary challengers must have weighed heavily on his mind.

So the question remains: is card check dead? Without Specter's support the bill is dead at least for now. And unless a Republican unexpectedly vanishes from the Senate, Big Labor is headed for a shocking and crushing blow. For conservatives, who can claim few victories in recent weeks and months, this is a much cherished win.