The US Senate has rejected H.R. 800, “The Employee Free Choice Act of 2007” by failing to reach cloture which would have ended debate on the measure. 60 Votes are needed on a cloture vote; the Senate voted 51-48.
The bill, also called “Card Check” by the industry groups opposed to its passage, would have allowed unions to gather a majority of employee signatures on authorization cards to gain recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. Currently, a union has to gather signatures of at least 30% of a proposed bargaining unit’s employees to have the opportunity to have an election. Although an employer can voluntarily recognize a union upon presentation of signature cards, employers do have the right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to demand a secret ballot election.
Among other provisions, the Act would have also made mandatory mediation in an effort to gain an initial contract.
The vote was strictly along party lines, with the only Republican supporting a vote on the bill being Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. According to published reports, the outcome was not a surprise as Republican leaders have made a concerted effort to block the bill from passage.
It seems likely that both the Republicans and Democrats will campaign on this issue heavily, given the nature of the issue and given the partisan nature of the cloture vote. Labor Unions are strongly in favor of the Act, arguing that secret ballot elections allow employers a greater window of opportunity to influence employees and that lengthening the recognition process causes a reduction of support for the union. Employers argue that by eliminating their right to a secret ballot would embolden union organizers to pressure workers to sign an authorization card. Private sector unions have steadily shrunk to a little more than 13% of the American work force in 2006 from more than 23% in 1983.
Thomas Ferraro notes in an article for Reuters that Republicans charge that the Democrats are pandering to organized labor as payback for helping them win control of Congress while Democrats present it as a moral issue and rule of the majority as a democratic cornerstone, while charging Republicans as going to bat for the business community.
According to Jesse J. Holland, Labor organizations gave over $57 Million to Democratic candidates and election committees in 2006, up from about $54 Million in 2004; business gave Republicans $81 Million, down from over $120 Million in 2004.
National Retail Federation, “Retailers Praise Senate for Rejecting ‘Card-Check’ Legislation”, URL: http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=330
Congressional Quarterly, Union Organizing Bill Fails Senate Procedural Test, URL: http://public.cq.com/docs/cqm/cqmidday110-000002540569.html
United States Senate, URL: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=1&vote=00227
The Library Of Congress, text of bill passed by house, URL: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:4:./temp/~c110vpKaHB::
JESSE J. HOLLAND in the Houston Chronicle, “Senate Republicans block labor bill”, URL:http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/politics/4921815.html