What's the Difference Between the Government and the Mob?

A law school professor of mine once said the only major difference between the government and the mafia is that the government calls its bill collector the “IRS” and the mafia calls its bill collector “Big Louie.”  While an exaggeration to make a rhetorical point, if the Senate dips below 41 Republican Senators this year, there will be one other difference between the government and mafia that goes out the window.

Right now, workers in business, like voters, get to choose by secret ballot on whether they will be unionized.  If the Democrats pass their “Employee Free Choice Act,” what opponents rightly call “card check,” any employee will be placed at the hands of a less than merciful union representative who knows precisely whether or not the employee is supportive of unions.  Under card check, instead of employees voting to unionize by secret ballot, employees will submit cards with their choice.  There will be no anonymity with their choice.

Because the Republican Party has enough members present right now to filibuster the legislation, it has not gotten anywhere.  If, however, the anti-Republican tide does sweep the GOP out to sea in November, there will be a serious danger in card check passing.

According to polling out in Maine, Rep. Tom Allen, a champion of card check is being hurt by the issue.  This could be a strong wedge against him if Senator Susan Collins sticks to her guns against the legislation.  According to a survey by the Employee Freedom Action Committee, an organization opposing the legislation, 57% of Maine voters oppose card check provisions.

Likewise in Minnesota, Al Franken is giving Senator Norm Coleman a run for his money with union dollars.  If Coleman goes down, that’s one more vote against card check that leaves the Senate.  There is a similar story in Oregon where Senator Gordon Smith’s opponent is running strong with union support.  Though not running strong, in North Carolina Kay Hagan is challenging Senator Elizabeth Dole with impressive union raised money tied to Hagan’s support for card check.

In Mississippi, Senator Roger Wicker is also feeling the heat from unions on this issue.  Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove is an ardent supporter of card check legislation and, consequently, is being funded heavily by unions.  Wicker, on the ballot statewide after filling Trent Lott’s unexpired term, is having to raise money and build his statewide name identification against Musgrove, who is already known throughout the state.

Unions are working overtime to make sure the Republican minority in the Senate is further reduced to ensure a filibuster is not possible against card check.  They have willing allies like Arlen Specter (R-PA) on their side, but as long as the GOP can keep at least 41 seats, a filibuster is still possible.  

The Republican Party has done itself few favors this year in working back into the good graces of voters, but the consequences of slipping below 41 seats in the Senate should hopefully motivate the base.  And serious attacks on his Republican colleagues by unions intent on passing card check, may wake up Arlen Specter and turn him off the issue.  We can hope.