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Sen. Lincoln: Unions, businesses need to hash out ‘card check’ dispute, not lawmakers (Click Here)

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln said Monday that business and labor groups, not lawmakers, should be the ones to work out a compromise on a union organizing bill.

The Democrat said she still opposes the Employee Free Choice Act and doesn’t believe the federal legislation should be considered while lawmakers are dealing with health care and other issues. Business groups have opposed the act because it would allow employees to unionize by signing cards instead of holding secret ballot elections.

Democratic lawmakers are working on a compromise version of the bill that may remove the “card check” provision. Lincoln, whom Republicans plan to target during next year’s election, spoke at the annual meeting of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas.

“I think the compromise needs to be made between business and workers, not senators,” she said. “I hope that will be the opportunity down the line, that businesses and workers come together to solve those problems and that it’s really focused on something that’s going to be more productive for everybody.”

Lincoln, seeking a third term next year, announced in April that she would not support the Employee Free Choice Act because she said it was too divisive. Republicans consider her seat their top race in the state next year and have touted her past support of similar legislation.

Seven Republicans have announced they’re seeking the GOP nomination for her U.S. Senate seat, and state Senate President Bob Johnson has said he may challenge Lincoln in the Democratic primary.

In 2004, Lincoln earned the rare distinction of being backed by both the Arkansas chapter of the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The state Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas, which lobby and advocate on behalf of state business interests, have spoken against the union-organizing legislation. During a question-and-answer session following her speech Monday, one questioner asked the audience to applaud Lincoln for opposing the bill.

“We see this as a flawed piece of legislation,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO of the state Chamber and Associated Industries of Arkansas. The two groups are separate, but share a headquarters and staff. “We see this as a bill that is a solution looking for a problem. We think the current process works well and see no reason to change it.”

The business group’s annual meeting also featured speeches by Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Ross and Vic Snyder and Gov. Mike Beebe.

Lincoln said her stance on the union-organizing bill and her support of an estate tax exemption has put her at odds with Democratic leaders in the Senate.

“I spend a good amount of time in the time-out chair in my caucus,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, last week voted for a proposal that would overhaul the nation’s health care system. Lincoln said she believes the bill is still a work in progress, but said she doesn’t think it will move toward a government-run health insurance system.

“We tried to create an environment, not a government-run system, but for government to create an environment where private industry can be successful,” Lincoln said.

Posted by Admin on 10/20 at 07:32 AM