This is not Corporate America’s Moment

The votes are still being counted in some places, but the battle for the soul of the new Administration and Congress has begun. Corporate America wasted no time in launching an effort to warn against any initiatives that would be seen as unfriendly to business. The Wall Street Journal is already predicting that Democrats will give in to the pressure and “go slow on controversial labor and regulatory issues.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued an open letter to Obama pledging to work with the new administration, but that pledge was followed by a dozen pages in which the group outlined its usual agenda of reduced corporate taxes, tort reform, easing of the regulatory “burden,” and so forth . The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was a bit more tactful. Its CEO Thomas Donahue put out a statement vowing to work with Obama and the new Congress “to help quickly restore economic growth,” avoiding for now the more contentious issues.

Not surprisingly, the sharpest battle lines are being drawn on labor law reform. Business has already been mobilizing to fight against proposed legislation—the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)—that would make it easier for workers to organize unions free of employer intimidation. Corporate interests targeted various members of Congress over the EFCA issue during the electoral campaign, to little effect, and undoubtedly intend to keep up the effort. Today NAM President John Engler told the Journal: “This is not the time and this is certainly not the issue with which to build a relationship.”

Someone needs to remind the business lobbies that elections have consequences. When George Bush won reelection four years ago, that same John Engler, speaking for the corporate class, declared: “This will be our moment.” Business Week added: “business groups are already busy claiming considerable credit for Bush’s win. Their wish lists are extensive.” Many of those wishes were granted by Bush and Cheney.

Despite the overblown McCain/Palin rhetoric, Obama did not run as a socialist, but he expressed clear disapproval of the deregulatory agenda. And he accepted extensive help from labor union members, many of whom were motivated by his criticism of corporate excesses and his support (albeit muted) for EFCA.

There may be reasons why the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats have to proceed carefully on regulatory and labor issues, not the least of which is the apparent absence of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Anti-union executives may not soon find themselves bodily removed from office, as Montgomery Ward President Sewell Avery was in 1944 (photo). Yet neither should business interests expect their wish list to be the current center of attention. This is not their moment.

2 thoughts on “This is not Corporate America’s Moment”

  1. You’re absolutely right, Mr. Mattera . This is no longer the hour of big business and grotesque corporate influence—it’s the peoples’ hour; their moment. In fact, the whole Democratic campaign (and it seems Presidency) is opening up new avenues for people to voice their opinions and get something done in their favor.

    The way I see it, businesses had their chance and through greed, poor wages, dangerous Chinese-made products, and of course sending jobs overseas—they blew it! If companies continue to pay American workers substandard wages, they have no right to complain when those same workers can’t afford their goods anymore.

    That’s why I believe we’ll see Congress and the new Administration working on “people” issues like passing the EFCA and tougher regulations. No worries…

  2. I beleive now is the time for the working class for too long now the companies and business’s have controled the working class with poor wages and even worst benefits. It is time there is a government in office that is here to work for the people. I beleive it states in the U.S. that it is a Government of the people for the people, and by the people. hope fully this time a government will actually follow thru on this. the working class has been controlled for long enough. When will big business realize that the more money you pay people the and the better you take of your employee’s the more dedicated they will be to you. Also the more money they will have to spend at your business. People are tired of living from paycheque to pay cheque just big companies want to make more profits , and they are doing it at the expense of our childrens educations and standard of living. Lets hope Obama really does make good on his promisses to work for the people, and with union and labour leaders to clean up the that has been created by big business and past governments.

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