The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


House of Labor

Drifting Right, Lincoln Comes Out Against EFCA

By Alec MacGillis
As members of Congress returned home for their two-week recess, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today wasted no time in delivering a major blow to the fading hopes of the Employee Free Choice Act. Lincoln, whose backing would be needed for the legislation to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes and who previously supported the bill, has been signaling that she is turning against it, but had not yet been as explicit as she was today at a meeting of the Little Rock Political Animals Club in Arkansas.

"I cannot support that bill," Lincoln told the club, one attendee recounted to Arkansas Business. "Cannot support that bill in its current form. Cannot support and will not support moving it forward in its current form."

Better known as card-check, the legislation would make it easier for workers to form unions.

Lincoln's shift on EFCA is not the only rightward tack she has taken in recent weeks as she looks ahead to her 2010 reelection race. She has also made headlines for a provision she put forward with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would slash the estate tax rate by raising the tax exemption from $7 million to $10 million per couple and lowering the top rate from 45 percent to 35 percent.

Proponents of the bill -- which passed 51-48 in the Senate but was not included in the House's version of the budget, and so awaits its fate in a conference committee -- say it would spare successful small businessmen, farmers and entrepreneurs from unfair taxation.

Opponents say that it would cost the Treasury $250 billion and would benefit only the very wealthiest families -- and precious few farmers and small businessmen. Already, the Tax Policy Center estimates, only the wealthiest three-tenths of a percent of estates will pay taxes under the 2009 rates, which President Obama has proposed to extend.

Underlying the debate is an interesting subtext regarding charitable giving that also placed Lincoln at odds with her president.

To help pay for expanded health care, Obama's budget proposed a decrease in the tax deductions that wealthy taxpayers -- those earning $250,000 or more -- can claim for their charitable giving and mortgage interest payments.

Opposition to the proposal was swift, as congressmen in both parties, charities and universities said reducing the charitable deduction savings for wealthy taxpayers would result in a big drop in giving. Obama countered that any decrease in giving would be minimal and that charities and universities' losses would be more than offset by the stronger economy and broader health coverage he said his plans would produce.

Lincoln seized on concerns about reduced giving in explaining why she was ambivalent about Obama's plan. In an interview late last month, she said she was worried about a drop in giving to Arkansas universities and nonprofits and didn't see the current deduction rates as inequitable. Wealthy taxpayers "get more [deductions] because they give more" in taxes, she said. "From the nonprofit standpoint, it's an incentive to give a bigger gift, and I think a lot of people do, if you look at the bigger givers."

She noted that Arkansas ranks near the top in per-capita charitable giving. Asked whether Obama's tax change would affect that giving much, considering that Arkansas ranks near the bottom in per-capita income, she said she thought it would, because, she conjectured, much of the state's giving actually comes not from average citizens but from the ranks of the big business headquartered in the state. And some of these wealthy Arkansans have been hit by the recession, too, she said. "Some of those big givers, they may not have a college fund and retirement fund like I do, but they've seen their funds cut in half, and they're going to change their giving habits somewhat," she said.

A few days after this interview, Lincoln and Kyl presented their estate tax cut -- which opponents say it would do far more to reduce charitable giving than Obama's proposed change in deduction rates would, because wealthy people would have far less of a tax incentive to give. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that charitable giving by the wealthiest would drop about 10 percent -- a much steeper drop than they estimate will occur under the Obama giving tax changes.

Now that Lincoln has turned against it, card-check looks likely to be on hold for the time being. Expect, though, to hear much more on Congress' return in two weeks about the clashing claims on charitable giving and tax reform, at the center of which now stands Blanche Lincoln.

Posted at 5:41 PM ET on Apr 6, 2009  | Category:  House of Labor
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She should be concerened about the 2010 election,There are more working class than rich wal-mart ceo's.And they can and will vote her out!

It is amazing that anti-labor groups complain about "card check" on the front end of union creation, but current "card check" rules for the dissolving of a union are perfectly acceptable.

Wal-Mart executives have protected themselves and their fortunes through contracts for a reason. They then fight to deny their employees access to similar contracts for the exact same reason.

This current secret ballot process is not up to the employees, the company decides when to allow this vote which is usually weeks and sometimes months after they receive the petition of their employees names from the NLRB. They ask for these names so they can begin their intimidation tactics.

And under efca, If only 30% of the employees still want a ballot election they get one.It does not do away with the election,It gives the employees a CHOICE!

The shows only 42 reports have been filed against the unions since 1935, but over 29,000 against companies just last year.That's right the NLRB.GOV !

Remember Blanche Lincoln, There are more wage slaves than rich wal-mart ceo's, the working class are waking up!

Posted by: WorkingClass2 | April 8, 2009 11:51 AM

Sen. Blanche Lincoln may have hammered the proverbial nail in the original version of the EFCA coffin for now, but I caution business owners not to relax on the labor relations issue. Card check, neutrality, equal access, etc. are all heavily pro-labor The alternative proposal submitted by Starbucks, Costco, and Whole Foods just a few weeks ago proves that many large businesses are willing to negotiate a compromise. Ultimately, the way we conduct business is going to change and that means getting back to basics. Business owners should immediately assess their vulnerability, train managers and supervisors on how to recognize and deal with employee issues and union organizing, and open up the lines of communication within the organization. Showing each employee that he/she is a valued member of the team is an easy way to avoid union success in the workplace.

Frank Merrick
The Mickus Group

Posted by: fmerrick | April 7, 2009 3:28 PM

it does not take long for some folks to line up to do harm to themselves. the repuglicrats
have as usual told us that efca is bad. it is just the opposite. union membership which
allows for a legal entity (a union) to bargain collectively for its members to ensure fairness and the right to speak out without retaliation has been in steep decline because there has been no efca. blanche lincoln has sold out without any doubt as has bayh (to the banks). kyl is in bed with everyone. half the repuglicrats don't even know what efca would do, and the other half are paid to lie about it anyway. some of the remarks listed above suggest that a few repuglicrat goons have learned how to read but not to think.

Posted by: hoya1955 | April 7, 2009 3:26 PM

it doesn't take long before folks line up to do themselves real harm. half the repuglicrats who oppose efca don't understand it anyway. the other half are paid to oppose it because their masters do not want to deal with unions which provide a legal entity for collective bargaining which might result in paying a fair wage. lincoln is apparently walmart's stooge just as bayh is in bed with the banks. kyl is in bed with everybody. the two clowns above who consider obama as stupid should be asked who they consider as not stupid.

Posted by: hoya1955 | April 7, 2009 2:27 PM

GOOD for Senator Lincoln!!! The consequences for all Americans if that bill went through, would be inflation on a scale that has never been seen in this country! You liberals may not see it that way, but it will hurt the poor people more than the rich! Think of it - grocery bills, every item you purchase, etc...

Posted by: SeniorVet | April 7, 2009 2:09 PM

She must have met with some WalMart execs down in Bentonville. Are they contributing to her 2010 campaign?

Posted by: DGSPAMMAIL | April 7, 2009 12:19 AM

well now we know who is the friend of the working class, and Lincoln is not. time to vote her out of office.

Posted by: sandnsmith | April 6, 2009 11:26 PM

This article seemed to be more about the estate tax and charitable contributions than it was about card check.

The battle over card check is a battle that the President does not want or need now particularly when he needs to restore confidence that business leaders have in his administration.

Rules of organizing a workplace for union representation must draw a fine line. Union organization should not be impossible but it should not be automatic either. The EFCA would make it way too easy. If this ever passed, we would see even more jobs going overseas.

Posted by: danielhancock | April 6, 2009 11:02 PM

i woke up this morning and i realize there are only two classes of people government and unemployed

Posted by: getsix1 | April 6, 2009 9:39 PM

Adjunct Professor Obama will have to pay lip service to card check, but if he wastes any political capital on it then he's even dumber than he seems (which is pretty dumb).

Posted by: zjr78xva | April 6, 2009 9:10 PM

Senator Lincoln drifted to the center on Card Check. 75% of Americans don't want Tony Soprano helping unions organize. Obama was wrong on the charitable giving, just like he is about speaking Austrian.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | April 6, 2009 8:33 PM

Card check will be a truly messy fight for Obama. Much worse than anything over the stimulus or budget. The unions will be using the worst tactics to pressure the White House...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 6, 2009 7:57 PM

Change that "D-Ark" to "D-Wal-Mart" .

Posted by: jimk8mr | April 6, 2009 7:50 PM

One of these days the workers of America will wake up and realize that they have been betrayed by the people whom they have elected to office. I pray that they will wake up soon before it is too late.

No one seems to care about the very people who keep this country running, the everyday worker who does his/her job with less and less real income and virtually no job security or benefits.

No one seems to care if big business, the large corporations, etc. (in particular the folks at Wal-Mart) treat their workers like peons.

One day America is going to wake up and find out that there are only 2 classes in America -- the rich and the poor. We wake up one day and find that we have not lost the protections and wages that the unions helped to provide that helped create our middle class. We will end up like every other 3rd world nation. We will wake up one day and find that we have also lost our freedoms and our democracy.

There can be no true democracy without a middle class. Think about it....

Posted by: abby0802 | April 6, 2009 7:44 PM

Card Check legislation is bad business. GM is in severe trouble because of management failures and restrictive union contracts and work rules. I worked in a Ford plant on the line and I saw first hand how the unions did their best to make life miserable for management. When labor comes back to a union free GM, the workers need rights and protection. One of the things that should be adopted is profit sharing. That way labor will have a stake in the business. At present worker loyalty is to the union, and we now see the results of that business plan. In a global society, there is no place for union work rules that restrict production and make American labor too expensive to compete globally.

Posted by: saelij | April 6, 2009 7:28 PM

Thank God! Maybe these RINOs will finally grow spines over the break.

Posted by: JakeD | April 6, 2009 5:58 PM

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