Labor representatives watching the returns from AFL-CIO headquarters put down their beer and wine to let out a cheer at news that North Carolina state senator Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE, the Democratic challenger, would unseat Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the Republican incumbent. If the projection proves correct, it moves the unions a vote closer to a key priority next session: the Employee Free Choice Act.

That measure is intended to make it easier for unions to organize workers, and the labor movement looks to it as a way to reverse the trend of declining union membership. It would allow workers to join a union by signing a petition, ending the current requirement that secret ballots be cast. Union officials say companies make it difficult to hold votes for union membership.

The bill went down in defeat in the Senate in 2007 when supporters fell nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster. As Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE fought it out across the county, business and labor battled over the bill, also referred to as