Forces on both sides of the war over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) had strong opinions today regarding President Obama's appointment of Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of the pro-EFCA group American Rights at Work, to serve as senior advisor to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and as a liaison to Vice President Joe Biden's White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families.

"Great news from the White House," the AFL-CIO's declared in its report on the appointment. It said Maxwell will "bring to the administration a history of speaking out in support of workers and their freedom to bargain for a better life."

"Mary Beth Maxwell has dedicated her career to fighting for workers' rights and her appointment clearly spotlights the priority this administration puts on working men and women's issues, especially in today's economy," the blog continued. "The union movement looks forward to continuing to work with her in her new role to create good-paying jobs, restore workplace standards and safety rules and reform our nation's broken and outdated labor laws."

Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) described itself as being in "low dudgeon" over the news. "Maxwell has been the executive director of American Rights at Work, a union front group that has financed much of the advertising in support of the Employee Free Choice Act--or more accurately, attacking business as greedy exploiters of the working man and women," NAM declared in a blog posting on its website. And a Wall Street Journalpolitical blog posting quoted Justin Wilson, the managing director of the industry-backed Center for Union Facts, as saying Maxwell's appointment April 24 is the "latest example of the outsized influence labor leaders hold over President Obama and the Department of Labor."

While pro-business groups were unlikely to have disliked Maxwell's appointment at any time, the selection is particularly painful now because of labor unions' strong effort to win passage for EFCA. As previously reported, the legislation under consideration--H.R. 1409 and S. 560--would require that an employer recognize a union's bid to represent workers if a sufficient number of employees check off a card indicating they want union representation. As a result, it's also referred to as the "card-check bill." Currently, virtually all organizing campaigns end up being settled by a secret ballot of employees.

Labor unions have declared this issue their top priority for 2009, while business groups have been just as adamant against it. The National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Assocation made opposition to EFCA one of its three key talking points when members came to Washington last month for the group's annual legislative conference.

Despite enjoying support from President Obama and the House of Representatives, EFCA as currently written is unlikely to win passage because its backers have not as yet been able to corral the 60 votes needed to defeat any attempt by opponents to filibuster the bill to death on the Senate floor. As a result, supporters are working on compromise language. To date, there has been no notable progress reported on those discussions.