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The incoming administration took no time in setting up cybershop at the official White House website Tuesday afternoon. Before the President had even taken the oath of office, the files that once occupied Obama’s Change.gov site were transferred to the White House government page. Notably absent from this new site, however, was any mention of Obama’s ambitious labor agenda, including his desire to pass the controversial Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). In fact, “Labor” isn’t even listed as one of the 24 subcategories under the link outlining the administration’s broad “Agenda.” Organized labor initiatives do not even appear under the catch-all “Additional Issues” subcategory.
Given the level of detail that the transition team put into the Change.gov website in the first place, the absence of explicit support for labor-related initiatives cannot be deemed a mere oversight on the administration’s part. Despite organized labor’s concerted efforts to push legislation such as EFCA through Congress within the first 100 days of his presidency, Obama and his aides have been noticeably quiet and noncommittal on this issue. Even Democratic House leadership has indicated that EFCA may not be a 100-Day priority. Vocal opposition to EFCA by those in the business community combined with the dire financial situation seem to have shifted the administration’s focus to the economy and pro-worker legislation less onerous than EFCA, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, that has a higher probability of actually being signed into law. Whether the lack of union-related links on the White House website signals that President Obama is trying to distance himself from various campaign promises to push labor-related legislation remains to be seen. However, it should be again noted that in similar times, the Roosevelt Administration also deferred labor law reform during its first year in favor of more fundamental economic issues; only to resurrect and enact legislation two years after taking office that rewarded organized labor by permitting private sector unions to organize workers – the National Labor Relations Act.