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Rove, Carnahan latest targets in business-union battle over "card check"

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 15, 2009 - Area supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act -- also known as "card check" -- are gathering in Clayton this afternoon to counter the second event in as many days conducted by opponents of the measure aimed at helping unions to organize.

Former top Bush strategist Karl Rove is to headline a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser late this afternoon. at the St. Louis Club organized by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and financier William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle and brother of two presidents.

The event is to raise money to fight the Free Choice Act, a top union objective which had been praised last year by now-President Barack Obama and many of the Democrats now controlling Congress.

Outside on Forsyth Avenue, members of the Service Employees International Union and other allies --including Jobs With Justice and Missouri Pro-Vote -- plan to hold a 5 p.m. rally in favor of card check.

Both sides accuse the other of spreading untruths.

Here's the no-spin basics:

The Act would allow workers to vote for union representation simply by filling out cards. 

If a majority of the employees at a firm did so, the union would be approved as their representative. If the workers chose, a secret-ballot vote would be held.

Now, a secret-ballot vote is required, but backers of card-check say that companies often delay such a vote while they intimidate or fire employees. However, opponents of card-check say it would lead to open intimidation of workers by union organizers.

If the workers opt for union representative, the Act gives both sides 120 days to come up with a contract. Otherwise, a federal mediator is brought in. Now, there is no time limit for contract negotiations.

At an opposition event Tuesday in Sunset Hills, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder -- a critic of card check -- told a couple dozen business leaders that they will lose control of their business operations, from vacation schedules to healthcare coverage, if card check becomes law.

He also asserted that such a law will be "a huge incentive for large and medium businesses to move jobs overseas."

Kinder added that his target was "union bosses'' and not rank-and-file union members. "The trade union movement has its place in the American marketplace,'' Kinder said, adding that he would not engage in "union-bashing'' in the campaign against card-check.

Meanwhile, at today's pro-card check rally, activists say they are "rallying to let Missouri know the truth about the Employee Free Choice Act and expose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's history of fighting against American workers."

Organizers say the rally will feature workers who "will be speaking about how the Employee Free Choice Act will impact their lives."

Both sides agree that any congressional vote is likely to be close. A national consultant with an anti-card check group, Save Our Secret Ballot, said at Tuesday's event in Sunset Hills that a majority of the U.S. House already has signed on as sponsors of the Free Choice Act, virtually guaranteeing its House passage.

The real battle ground is the Senate, said the consultant, Tim Mooney.

He went on to explain that 60 supportive senators are needed to support a "cloture'' vote which would then open the way for a final vote, which would only require 51 votes. The Senate is close to having enough for cloture, especially since Minnesota Democrat Al Franken -- presumed to be pro-card check -- is being sworn in to replace Republican Norm Coleman, an opponent.

The Save Our Secret Ballot campaign, in Missouri and about a dozen other states, is aimed at getting state constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010 that would bar card-check and require a secret ballot vote for workers considering union representation. Such state-by-state efforts are the only way to counter the federal law, Mooney said.

But in Missouri, Mooney continued, "Our activity here is really targeted on one vote."

He made clear that the SOS Ballot campaign is directed, in part, at Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the likely Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2010. She is seeking the seat to be vacated by retiring Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who opposes card check.

At the moment, the only Republican candidate in 2010 is U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford, also a card-check opponent.

Mooney did not mention Blunt. But he told the Sunset Hill audience flatly, "If you change Sen. Bond to Sen. Carnahan -- the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law.''

Card check opponents' best hope, he said, is to "drive it into the campaign'' to defeat Carnahan, or to persuade her to back away from supporting the measure.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.