Brunch with the stars

The Democrats have an ill-advised fondness for celebrities, and the feeling is mutual. Stars of stage, screen and recording studio are everywhere to be seen in Denver. At a brunch co-hosted by the Service Employees International Union and the Creative Coalition—a “nonpartisan (what?) social and public policy advocacy organization”—Spike Lee, Ellen Burstyn, Matthew Modine, Alan Cumming, Barry Levinson, and a somewhat familiar-looking actress who plays a nurse on television looked on earnestly as Danny Glover called for social justice and enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Barack Obama has promised to back the law. Among other things, it would compel union recognition if more than 50 percent of a company’s workforce signed cards affirming their wish to be a member: no secret ballot required. The opportunities for intimidation are obvious. (A recent TV ad opposing the measure shows a Mafioso-type heavy offering a worker a card and a pen, as a bunch of thugs stand by.) Advocates of the law say that union-recognition elections are corrupted by employer intimidation, and the so-called card-check method is therefore necessary. Speaking as a worker, and bearing both kinds of undue pressure in mind, I would rather take my chances with a secret ballot. Other pieces of EFCA are less indefensible, and it is a shame to see them tethered to this plain infringement of civil liberty, but the unions want card-check more than all the rest, and the law’s advocates regard the measure as indivisible.

None of this was discussed over brunch, needless to say. The law was not even described: it was posited as self-evidently desirable, and that was that. The only question was how to get it passed. Send for some actors. They draw a crowd, I grant you, but I wonder whether brunch with the stars really advances the cause.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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