Will Big Labor's Carrot Become a Stick for Specter?

The Employee Free Choice Act is considered by labor unions to be the most important piece of legislation in decades. It would not only arrest the decline in union membership but would also grant unions greater bargaining power. Senator Arlen Specter supported the bill in 2007, when it did not have a chance of passing, but has since flip flopped on the issue. His decision to change position on the issue will make him enemy number one for labor unions in the 2010 election.

The big unions so strongly want EFCA passed this year that they offered to fully support Sen. Specter in both the primary and general election. The AFL-CIO promised to organize their members to switch party registration to Republican so they could protect Specter in the primary if he back EFCA. Sen. Specter is expecting a tough rematch in the primary against Club for Growth president Patrick Toomey.

The Republican primary may be more dangerous to Specter's chances of reelection than the general election. He must have calculated that the amount of heat he would have taken on the right would have outweighed the amount of help the labor unions could offer in the Republican primary.

What he may not have taken into consideration is the AFL-CIO possibly turning its carrot into a stick. The best hope of assuring a senator is elected who will support the EFCA is to make sure Pat Toomey wins the Republican primary. The AFL-CIO was already planning to convince members to switch parties to vote in the Republican primary. If instead of voting for Specter they now vote against Specter, it might be enough to cost him the primary. Pat Toomey could win the primary but would not have a chance against a moderate Democrat in the general.

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