GOP Defeats Bill in Senate To Expedite Union Organizing

By Jesse J. Holland
Associated Press
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senate Republicans blocked a bill yesterday that would allow labor unions to organize workplaces without a secret-ballot election.

Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to force consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, ending organized labor's chance to win its top legislative priority from Congress. The final vote was 51 to 48.

The bill would require employers to recognize unions after being presented union cards signed by a majority of eligible workers on their payrolls. Under current labor law, a company can demand a secret-ballot election supervised by the federal government after being presented the union cards.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had said for months that he would stop the legislation in the Senate. The White House also made clear that if the bill passed Congress, it would be vetoed.

The House passed the bill in March. Democrats and labor unions pressed for a vote in the Senate in hopes of rallying their voters in the 2008 elections, when they hope to win the White House and increase their majorities in the House and Senate.

"We will keep coming back year after year after year," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Republicans also plan to use the vote for election-year campaigning, with corporations and businesses the top opponents to the legislation. The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a fundraising video last week asking people to contribute to help stop the Employee Free Choice Act.

"Republicans will remind our constituents about the fact that Democrats proposed to strip workers of their voting rights," McConnell said.

The legislation was a litmus test vote for organized labor and businesses, strong supporters of Democrats and Republicans, respectively. "Today's vote shows us who is standing with workers and which politicians are in collusion with corporate America to destroy the middle class," Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said.

Business associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also plan to grade lawmakers based on their votes. "The Chamber will include votes on, or in relation to, this issue in our annual 'How They Voted' scorecard," R. Bruce Josten, the top U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, wrote in a letter to Congress.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company