OpportunityMarch 12, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
If Al Franken is seated in Minnesota, it looks like Senate Democrats will still be one vote short of breaking an inevitable Republican filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act. There is only one Senate Republican who might possibly side with the Democrats. Sen. Arlen Specter [R, PA] voted for the bill last year, and he’s on the fence as to whether or not he’ll vote for it again this year. If he does, he’ll likely enable the Democrats to get the bill, which would make it easier for workers to for unions, signed into law.
It just so happens that Sen. Specter is going to be facing a very difficult primary race challenger in 2010, and his best chance at staying a U.S. Senator beyond this session likely involves him switching parties and running as a Democrat. But would Democrats in Pennsylvania Specter over a likely more progressive Democratic primary challenger? Winning full-fledged support from organized labor couldn’t hurt:
This is big: Senior officials with the powerful AFL-CIO have privately assured GOP Senator Arlen Specter that they’ll throw their full support behind him in the 2010 Senate race if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, a senior labor strategist working closely with the AFL on the issue tells me.
This is significant, because it represents a big incentive for Specter to switch parties — and to support Employee Free Choice. Specter may be facing a serious GOP primary challenge from Club for Growth head Pat Toomey. If he loses that — or pulls out of the GOP first and becomes an Indy or a Dem — supporting Employee Free Choice could give him the organizational muscle from labor and Democratic support he needs to prevail in a general election and hold his seat.
The labor strategist tells me that top AFL-CIO officials have told Specter they’ll back him to the hilt if he supports their top priority.
“If Senator Specter supports working people — particularly voting with us on Employee Free Choice — the AFL-CIO will support him 100 percent of the way, whether in a primary or a general election,” the strategist says.