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Working In These Times

Monday, Oct 19, 2009, 8:51 am

GOP House Candidate Would Co-Sponsor EFCA With Card Check

BY Lindsay Beyerstein

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy speaks during an AFL-CIO rally on Capitol Hill in 2007, just before the Employee Free Choice Act was blocked by a Senate filibuster.   (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As a New York State Assemblywoman, DeDe Scozzafava established herself as a union-friendly Republican. As the GOP candidate in New York's 23rd Congressional District, she has drawn fire from conservatives for her support of the Employee Free Choice Act, one of the top items on labor's legislative wish list, while earning the support of labor councils and the UAW.

However, the Scozzafava campaign has sent conflicting signals about whether she supports the most controversial provision of the legislation: unionization via majority signup (commonly referred to as "card check").

In September, Scozzafava campaign spokesman Matt Burns told John Gizzi of the conservative Human Events that his candidate supported EFCA minus card check:

Burns conceded there were other issues on which the Republican has problems with conservatives in her party:  she is pro-abortion, voted for gay marriage and, while not endorsing the controversial “card check” provision in the Employee Free Choice Act, she does support “reform in workers’ ability to organize” -- a stand not too different from that of AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka when he said he could support EFCA without card check).

In These Times obtained a copy of a candidate questionnaire from the AFL-CIO's legislative department. In that document, Scozzafava pledged to co-sponsor EFCA with card check, as did her Democratic opponent Bill Owens. To wit:

If elected, would you co-sponsor and vote for the Employee Free Choice Act (S.800/H.R. 1041), which passed the House by a vote of 241-185 on March 1, 2007 but was blocked by a Senate filibuster in June, 2007 (the Senate failed to invoke cloture by a vote of 51-48 vote)?

The Employee Free Choice Act, introduced by Senator Kennedy in the Senate and Representative George Miller in the House, would require employers to honor their workers’ decision to join a union after a majority of them signed a union authorization card or petition; establishes first contract mediation and arbitration; and creates meaningful penalties against employers who interfere with, coerce or fire workers for attempting to join a union. OWEN [sic]– YES, DEDE - YES

So far, Scozzafava's office has not responded to calls for comment.

Card check is the centerpiece of the Employee Free Choice Act. To remove majority signup from EFCA would massively water down the bill.

Labor is divided in NY-23. Scozzafava has the support of a number of local unions with whom she has worked closely during her time in the legislature. Some of her strongest support comes from the district's building trades, in no small part beause of she was one of only a handful of Republicans to support reform for Industrial Development Agency subsidies, New York's main tool for subsidizing job creation at the county and city levels.

Owens, however, has the support of the politically powerful SEIU Local 1199, which has been known to outspend the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in key races. On Friday, Local 1199 reported a $100,000 independent expenditure on Owens' behalf. SEIU is a key ally of the Obama administration.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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