The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 22, 2007

Veto threat aside, Senate Dems to move on key organizing bill

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

WASHINGTON (PAI) - The Senate was scheduled to vote on June 20 on whether to cut off a two-day Republican filibuster against the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation designed to help level the playing field between workers and bosses in organizing and bargaining

The vote will follow intensive lobbying by a labor-led wide-ranging coalition, including community groups, religious leaders and civil rights groups.

The vote "is critically important," said AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff, because even if we can't overcome the filibuster, it (the vote) will set a marker for the next two years - to get a Senate to pass it and a (new) president who twists arms for it."

The law faces an uphill battle, even with the lobbying. Acuff said "defeating it has become the No. 1 priority of the Radical Right Wing." The bill passed the House March 1, 241-185, with 228 Democrats and 13 Republicans voting for it. And President George W. Bush plans to veto it.

If the Employee Free Choice Act (HR 800/S 1041) becomes law, it would help level the playing field by legally endorsing "card-check" recognition of unions at work sites. Card-check is a simplified election process for voting during union organizing drives. The process helps prevent employer intimidation of employees during the process of a ballot election.

Organized labor maintains that management often takes the time before those elections to hold closed-door meetings and intimidate and threaten workers into voting against union representation.

Backers of the legislation said it has 48 Senate co-sponsors and counted 52 votes, going in, to shut off the GOP filibuster. But they needed 60 votes to succeed. Among the senators targeted were George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Norman Coleman (R-Minn.), and both GOP senators from Maine and both Republicans from Alaska.

The business community has launched radio and TV ad blitzes in states of undecided senators, wrapping itself in the flag of the "secret ballot" in union recognition elections, while ignoring the rampant business labor law-breaking that occurs before those votes.

This year's Senate vote came on an infamous anniversary: On June 20, 1947--precisely 60 years ago--Democratic President Harry S Truman vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act. That law, by the GOP-run 80th Congress, incorporated the original National Labor Relations Act, but made labor law pro-management. The House overrode Truman's veto that day and the Senate did so three days later.