Barack Obama had the following to say in a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board:
On the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to organize by obtaining a majority of signatures from employees in a workplace rather than having to win secret-ballot elections, Mr. Obama signaled willingness to consider other mechanisms to address the concern that employers unfairly use the current process to intimidate workers not to join unions. And he seemed in no hurry to have Congress bring it up. “If we’re losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize, so my focus first is on those key economic priority items,” Mr. Obama said, declining to state whether he wanted to see the issue debated during his first year in office.
It’s unclear from this what “other mechanisms” Obama could have in mind, but one possibility is that he could allow the Labor Department to take actions under the radar to strengthen unions without having to ignite a contentious legislative battle. Under Elaine Chao, the Department has actually taken its responsibility of regulating unions seriously. Last week the Office of Labor-Management Standards, which carries out that duty, reported that in the last 8 years, it had pursued criminal cases that led to the conviction of 929 corrupt union officials, recovering over $93 million for union members. In part, it’s the aggressive policing of unions by the Chao Labor Department as well as the liberal accusation that she’s in the pockets of big business, that provided the impetus for the drive for “card check.” But now that big labor will have one of their own in charge of the Labor Department in Hilda Solis, things will change. Maybe Obama is thinking that he can slip one by the goalie by using the regalatory tools of the Labor Department to decrease scrutiny of unions and pressure businesses without having to go through Congress. Business groups will make a stink and conservatives who closely follow these issues will huff and puff, but at the end of the day most Americans don’t have a clue what happens inside the Frances Perkins Building, nor do they care.