This commentary may not be in the locale where readers would anticipate finding commendatory words about former Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D. When he ran, and soundly was defeated, for president of the United States he typified the far left of the 1970s - a left which in retrospect seems a bit less militant than that of the present era but which, by any comparison, was yet liberal.
However, Free Congress Foundation speaks to objectivity as well as traditional Americanism and assiduously attempts to reflect that blend in its work. Hence, it may not be too surprising that, grounds to commend Sen. McGovern having arisen, they merit published approval. Further, the media has all but ignored the subject. This is to some extent not surprising in view of the pending quadrennial election campaigns and the worldwide economic jolt, downturn, recession or depression, whatever one cares to label it.
The subject formally is known as the Employee Free Choice Act. Typical of so many dangerous bills before Congress it has an appealing name. (How often legislation is misnamed: eliminate such adjectives as “Fair,” “Free” and other PR words and one would need to completely rename much legislation!) Most people familiar with this proposal term it the Card Check Bill - more honest, if not fully descriptive, nomenclature.
What would the bill do if enacted into law? In short, it would be used to facilitate the abolition of secret ballots in labor-union elections. Workers eligible to, and wanting to, vote on labor-union issues effectively would be deprived of the secret ballot. Thus, a union member would vote against a labor union, a labor-union boss, or against the wishes of either, at real peril.
Not surprisingly, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has been a leader in opposition to the Card Check Bill. She has also been an educator about the bill and its dangerous consequences if enacted into law. (This is not surprising because she is bright, courageous, objective, experienced and remarkably well informed - a model of versatility.)
McGovern’s friends and acquaintances always have applauded him for fairness as he sees it and for candor. Doubtless by this paragraph, if not earlier, the surprise is obvious: McGovern urges defeat of Card Check legislation. “I believe in the secret ballot as a very important part of our democracy” sums up his view and his rationale. This announcement is particularly meaningful coming from one whose political career reflects the support of organized labor and of numerous liberal causes.
In March 2007 the Card Check Bill passed the House of Representatives but the Senate majority has not been able to corral the required 60 votes to silence what would be a filibuster. Thus, the legislation almost assuredly will not be enacted in the 110th Congress.
Of course, there is the remote possibility that if, as many predict, the present majority greatly increases its Senate seats and there is a post-election senatorial session, then a few Senators might switch to help gain the 60-vote requirement. That combination of events is unlikely and President Bush might veto the bill anyway, notwithstanding his reluctance to use the veto.
The AFL-CIO is reported to be spending some $53 million with respect to the Nov. 4 elections. Whatever the total, labor-union support for those who would enact the bill is immense. Sen. McGovern, therefore, essentially is speaking to the 111th Congress and the next administration.
One must commend him upon his courage, objectivity and sense of fairness.