Business and Labor

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 12:44 PM EST

BUSINESS AND LABOR....At the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council yesterday, the one where Rahm Emanuel told business leaders that the Obama administration would "throw long and deep," he also took a question about the Employee Free Choice Act:

He was asked his views on the push by labor unions to allow workplaces to be organized with the signing of cards attesting to union support rather than a secret ballot. Mr. Emanuel declined to say whether the White House would support the legislation, but he said the unions are addressing the concerns of a middle class that has seen U.S. median income slide over the past eight years, while health care, energy and education costs have soared.

Does this mean Obama won't actually push for passage of EFCA, even though he said during the campaign he would? Who knows. But apropos of my comment the other day about anti-unionism being at the core of Main Street conservatism, what it does show is that Emanuel felt pretty comfortable telling the gathered CEOs that Obama would push for global warming controls, healthcare reform, lots of deficit spending on an economic stimulus package, and a comprehensive new set of financial regulations. That's all socialism, of course, but he knew the titans of American industry wouldn't fuss about it too much.

But a proposal that might end up increasing private sector union density from its current 7.5% to, say, 8.5%? (Or, if you're really optimistic, maybe 9.5%.) That, he knew, would send the place into a frenzy. Like I said on Monday, there's nothing that gets business leaders more panicked than the idea of workers organizing for higher wages. Nothing.

On a related note, here's a prediction: Obama will need a few votes from Senate Republicans to pass his legislative program. I'll bet he'll get it on global warming controls, healthcare reform, economic stimulus, and financial regulation. But on EFCA, he'll have trouble getting even a single Republican vote. That will be considered the make-or-break vote from the business community. Just wait and see.