A canvass of labor leaders and strategists this morning confirms the diagnosis reached by the New York Times: there is not enough support in the Senate to change federal law to allow 'card check' elections anytime soon. This is the first time since the start of the fight that labor leaders are conceding in private what has seemed to be apparent in public for a long while. The failure of card check, now known as "majority signup," speaks as much to the political priorities of the Obama administration as it does the power of moderate Democrats, most of whom opposed card check for fear of alienating employers in their mostly non-union districts. As of a few months ago, labor strategists could accurately claim as many as 58 votes in the Senate, just two shy of the magic 60 needed to avoid a filibuster. But even as President Obama and Vice President Biden dutifully praised card check in speeches, the White House did not put any political muscle into passing it, and they very clearly indicated to Congressional leaders that its passage was less important than health care, its economic stimulus efforts, its financial industry regulation proposals, and -- did we mention, health care, where the White House still believes that engagement with the private sector will push health care over the top in the end.
The labor movement itself will argue about the politics of card check for years to come. What's also clear is that the abandonment of the card check provision will smooth passage of what's going to be the biggest labor reform bills since the Wagner Act. It will most likely include a version of binding arbitration, which is still anathema to big business.