The week in Tom Harkin news

I’ve been meaning to write up a few stories about Senator Tom Harkin this week. As you may recall, he has been working on a compromise for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would build the middle class by making it easier for workers to join a labor union. (Click here for background on the EFCA.)

On Monday Harkin told Bloomberg News that the “card check” provision may have to be dropped from the EFCA in order to get the bill through the Senate. “Card check” means that workers could form a union if a majority sign a document stating that they would like to join a union. Republicans and business groups are loudly complaining that this would destroy “secret ballot” elections on unions, ignoring the reality: “[t]he current process is not secret or democratic.”

Anyway, Harkin told Bloomberg that he hopes to find a compromise

that will gain “maybe the grudging support of labor and maybe the grudging support of some businesses.” […]

A softened version of the bill may attract support from more lawmakers, Harkin said. “Many do feel there is an imbalance” in current laws that favors business over labor, Harkin said.

“They may not be for the card-check, but they are for changing election process and procedures and shortening the period of time for elections” to form unions in a company.

The Bloomberg piece didn’t say anything about binding arbitration, which in my opinion is as important a part of EFCA as card check.

Also this week, Harkin told CNN that he supports appropriating funds to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention complex this year, as President Barack Obama has promised to do.

In other news, I read at La Vida Locavore that Harkin just introduced a bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1996. Jill Richardson writes that Harkin’s bill

will update the rules on what’s allowed to be served or sold in schools. Right now, almost everything is fair game to sell in schools. You just can’t sell the worst junk in the cafeteria during lunch time. Outside of the cafeteria, anything goes. In the cafeteria when it’s not time for lunch, anything goes.

Harkin’s commitment to improving the health and nutrition of American children continually impresses me (see here, here and here).

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