Specter outlined a five-point plan to aid workers during a speech to U.S. Steelworkers after having received major backing from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in his reelection bid. 

“It is time American workers had a bill of rights like the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, a bill of rights to protect them from unfair competition and destructive trading practices in a global economy," Specter told workers at the plant, according to prepared remarks. 

The senator has been tacking leftward in order to fend off a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.).


Specter's shifts have been especially marked when it comes to labor issues, since, while serving as a Republican last year, he pledged to vote against a procedural motion on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA, or "card check"), a top legislative priority for organized labor. Specter was endorsed by the AFL-CIO in 2004.

Labor is now viewing Specter with some criticism, and Thursday's speech was an effort to win them over.

Specter's bill of rights is a five-point platform: Forcing China to end its practice of pegging its currency to the U.S. dollar, more aggressively enforcing U.S. trade laws, rescinding the president's authority to overrule the International Trade Commission's recommendations, offering speedier remedies for illegal trade claims, and strengthening "Buy American" requirements under the stimulus.

Specter has not introduced legislation encompassing all these issues, and a spokeswoman said such legislation is unlikely. But several individual bills have been introduced by Specter or other senators on all of these points. 

For instance, Specter has been pushing for more active work by the ITC, has introduced separate pieces of legislation meant to provide remedies for companies harmed by illegal dumping practices, and has worked to bolster benefits for workers laid off as a result of the poor economy. He's also introduced legislation to address Chinese currency manipulation, one of the prongs of his Workers' Bill of Rights.

It's unclear whether any of these bills will receive votes this year in the Senate, though support for legislation targeting China's currency has seen growing support in recent weeks. 

Specter takes his toughest shots toward China, which, Specter said, is guilty of "international banditry" by way of its trade practices.

Specter also has ratcheted up pressure on President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Kid reporter who interviewed Obama dies at 23 Obama shares video of him visiting Maryland vaccination site GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump MORE and other Democratic leaders when it comes to labor issues.

Updated at 4:22 p.m. An earlier version of this post mischaracterized a statement by a spokeswoman for Sen. Arlen Specter.