By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Ever since 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern hit the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, in an ad earlier this year, Big Labor has been fuming. This week, it let off some steam. In a breakfast media roundtable, the likely new president of the AFL-CIO struck back. Richard Trumka, who's expected to be elected next week to replace outgoing boss John Sweeney, slammed McGovern as a foe of workers. "You know poor George got paid to do an ad. Now he ran as an antiwar candidate, and there have been three or four wars since he left the playing field that he had nothing to say about. And then he comes back on the playing field to make war against the workers. We found that very ironic," Trumka said to some gasps in the room of reporters.
McGovern assailed the labor election proposal in an ad for EmployeeFreedom.org, a foe of the legislation that stalled this year after moderates like Sen. Arlen Specter came out against it. In the ad, McGovern said, "I've always been a champion of labor unions, but I fear that today's union leaders are turning their backs on democratic workplace elections."
Trumka and Sweeney said they see the tide changing in their favor and even suggested that Specter, who has since switched from the Republican Party to the Democrats, might change his mind—again. Former allies, said Sweeney, "are coming around. Senator Specter has been in discussions with both of us." Asked if he would switch to supporting card check, Sweeney grinned and said, "Look, ask him." They also said that President Obama has committed to pushing for the legislation once healthcare reform is dispensed with. "The president and vice president are both firmly committed," said Sweeney. "Once they get healthcare, they are going to go out and promote the Employee Free Choice Act," he added.
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