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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Specter's Switch Is No Reason for Labor to Sell Itself Short

Since Senator Arlen Specter has left the Republican party for the Democrats, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is now indicating it may support him, according to an interview with their president Bill George on WHYY this morning. This is despite Specter's opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, aimed at leveling a playing field presently stacked steeply against workers trying to form unions.

Unions can do better than this; despite their decline in recent years, they still have a lot of resources, especially in the form of people power. They demonstrated this in the considerable role they played in helping elect Barack Obama president.

Why should labor settle for someone like Specter, who opposes such an important part of its agenda? Just because he now has a "D" after his name? Such an attitude betrays a lack of self-confidence, and of confidence in the membership, on the part of the current leadership. This is particularly self-destructive when it leads to dependence on a party that has so often sold workers short.

George indicates that he's "talking" to Specter and may get him to change his position on EFCA. We can wish him well in that effort, but his chances will be better if he makes clear that he knows he can go somewhere else. Nor does he have to settle for what's acceptable to Democratic party power brokers; he could challenge Specter himself, or call a special convention of the labor movement to consider other electoral options, including the Labor Party.

Eric Hamell

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