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 HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 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 ObamaDem senator: Trump's 'icky' Boy Scout speech left 'my stomach in knots' Boos for Obama as Trump speaks at Boy Scout jamboree Feehery: Winning August MORE and John McCainJohn McCainMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Overnight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid MORE fought it out across the county, business and labor battled over the bill, also referred to as