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U.S. Chamber of Commerce targets Al Franken and his pro-labor stand

Labor's ability to organize workers is one of the major issues bubbling up in this year’s campaign, though it garners far less attention than broader questions of the economy, healthcare and war.

It’s playing out in the presidential campaign and in several House and Senate races across the country, especially in one of the nation's hottest -- Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota against Democratic challenger, Al Franken, the former comedian.

Franken, the former Saturday Night Live writer and star, has raised at least $13.1 million to Coleman’s $16.7 million.

The campaign has turned especially nasty with allegations that a wealthy donor bought suits for Coleman, a charge Coleman has denied. Coleman has promised to dial down his attacks against Franken. But that doesn't apply to outside groups.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $1.44 million in Minnesota, most of it on sharp-edged ads attacking Franken over his support of labor’s position on the Employee Free Choice Act, which is pending on Congress. Here's a smart article about the issue.

J.P. Fielder, chief chamber spokesman, called Franken's stand "comical," though he wasn't laughing.

Al_franken The labor-backed legislation would make it easier for unions to organize by allowing them to convince a majority of employees to sign cards supporting the union, rather than holding secret ballot elections. Employers would have to remain neutral on such organizing efforts.

Barack Obama embraces the concept. John McCain is talking on the stump about his opposition to it. The Chamber of Commerce is leading the fight against it. The Chamber fears labor could push through the legislation if Democrats gain a 60-40-seat majority in the Senate. That's where the Franken-Coleman contest comes in.

“Workers ought to be able to keep their right to secret ballot. It is a huge deal,” Fielder said, adding that protecting Coleman is “at the top of our list in terms of all our races.”

Fielder said the chamber intends to spend more than the $20 million it spent two years ago on congressional races. Federal Election Commission filings show it already has spent $11 million.

It has spent the most, $2.1 million, in New Hampshire, where it's defending incumbent John Sununu against Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor. There, the Chamber is attacking Shaheen over taxes.

Organized labor also is spending heavily. The nation's largest union, Service Employees International Union, plans to spend $85 million on federal races from the presidency on down by the time votes are cast Nov. 4.

-- Dan Morain

Photo credit: Jim Mone/AP

 
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If business interests want to keep the staus quo and avoid the Employee Free Choice Act, they should stop abusing the current system. NLRB supervised secret ballot elections are a joke- the process is rigged in favor of employers. Bosses take advantage of "administrative" delaying tactics and hire union-busting "consultants" to intimidate and fire workers in the run up to these elections.
I am not against secret ballots in principle, but I would like to see timely NLRB elections (say within 30 days) and an end to dirty tricks by employers to ensure that workers who want to organize are allowed to do so. Labor laws should be properly enforced so that businesses don't have the impunity to take a free ride on the backs of their workforce.

“All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor; and to fleece the one is to rob the other.”
Abraham Lincoln


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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