A Vote for Cloture is a vote against the Secret Ballot

The fierce debate over the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act begins in the Senate this week. The ramifications of this bill are far reaching beyond employee privacy and voting rights. Were the bill to pass, union leaders estimate that an additional 1.5 million more workers would be paying dues each year for the next 10-15 years. This translates into billions of additional dollars a significant portion of which would go right back into the campaign coffers of pro-labor politicians. This could tip the balance of power irrevocably and mean more political power for a wide variety of labor issues. In addition,as employers sought to adjust to these pressures job losses would inevitably occur. A new study by Dr. Anne Layne‐Farrar showed that in the first year after the implementation of EFCA, this legislation would cost the nation 600,000 full-time employees and permanently shrink the number of working Americans.

So it should be no surprise that this legislation is hotly contested. What’s more, this monumentally crucial bill will pass or fail based on the actions of less than a half dozen Senators. Due in large part to labor union leaders substantial sway over Congressional Democrats, the bill will have majority support in both houses. Only a filibuster in the Senate would prevent EFCA from becoming law. What this means is the fate of the legislation rests in the result of a cloture vote which will determine whether the bill can come up for debate and easy passage.

A few of these who are interested in hedging their bets are starting to send signals that they may approve cloture under the auspices of wanting the bill to be open to debate. Mark Pryor said last week that he wants to be able to “consider amendments to make it better.” Similarly, Sen. Mark Warner who hasn't taken an public position on the bill, has said he supports letting the Senate vote on it. Others have offered similar sentiments. But with legislation that already achieved a majority in 2007 when the Democrats had an even narrower advantage in the Senate, it is obvious that if this legislation clears a cloture vote it will come into law without significant change if any.

That is why it is important for the public to understand what can be a complex legislative process. If any moderate Senators are looking for “political cover” by supporting cloture but opposing the bill, it cannot be granted. When Senate Democrats face the voters in 2010 and beyond they will not be allowed to skate by claiming that “they voted for the bill before they voted against it.” While our legislative process may sometimes be complicated, in this case it must be made cut and dry. On EFCA, a vote for cloture is a vote against the right of millions of American employees to choose their union by secret ballot.