Another vote for card-check bill

Sixty senators will now caucus with the Dems in the upper chamber. That is a much larger majority than when the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) first moved in June 2007 and failed to earn cloture, grabbing 51 votes out of the 60 needed.

“Franken’s victory certainly helps our chances of passing EFCA, but there is still plenty of work to be done,” said Thea Lee, policy director for the AFL-CIO.

“Working families need him in the United States Senate to help restore the economy, rebuild the middle class and renew the American Dream for all workers,” said Anna Burger, chairwoman of Change to Win and secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union.

The bill should pass overwhelmingly in the House. But unlike in the last Congress, the Senate is working on the bill first to see if a compromise can be worked out to gain cloture.

Sen. Tom Harkin has been the lead negotiator on a compromise. The Iowa Democrat says Franken needs to be seated to have enough votes for Senate passage.

“There are multiple factors at play. Seating Sen. Franken is definitely one of them, but this bill is a heavy lift. Sen. Harkin is committed to moving this bill forward in a timely fashion,” said Bergen Kenny, Harkin’s press secretary.

Even with Franken, Democrats may not have the votes to push through because of concerns in their own conference.

“While Al Franken is a well-known supporter of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act and Sen. Norm Coleman is opposed to the legislation, we do not expect the seating of either in the U.S. Senate to significantly alter the dynamics of the vote count in the upper chamber,” says a June 15 memo from the Workforce Fairness Institute, which is opposed to EFCA. “The reality is that union bosses simply do not have the votes...and the impediment lies with Democrats, who would have a filibuster-proof majority, if Franken emerges as the victor.

All eyes now turn to the many Senate Democrats who have been skittish in supporting EFCA or have outright opposed it. Both Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) have come out against the bill, although Specter, alongside Harkin, has been working on a compromise. Specter voted for cloture on the bill in 2007.

If passed, EFCA, otherwise known as “card-check,” should increase union ranks, which have been dwindling for years. The bill would allow workers to bypass secret-ballot elections if a majority sign petition cards in order to organize into a union.

Unions are lobbying hard for the legislation, saying it would counteract intimidation by employers who try to stop union organizing. They believe unionized workers could negotiate better wages and benefits.

Several prominent business associations argue the bill would lead to more work stoppages and strikes, and drag down business.