Union organizing bill gets sidetracked

March 25, 2009 8:05:59 PM PDT
A huge fight over union organizing rules appears side tracked. A key vote for the Employee Free Choice Act has defected.

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The measure would make it easier for employees to organize a union. The option of simply signing a card would be added to the current ballot method. If 50 percent plus one signed cards, employers would be obligated to recognize the union.

Concord Congressman George Miller introduced the house version of the EFCA and two weeks ago it appeared the struggle by union organizers to pass the card check measure would finally result in an up or down vote. But yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania stood on the Senate floor and withdrew his support.

"The problem of the rescission make this a particularly bad time to enact employees choice legislation," Specter said.

Specter was the key 60th vote, the lone Republican needed to avoid a Senate filibuster.

"So that in effect means that unless there is another Republican whose willing to vote for this bill it's not going to pass," ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain said.

Cain says Specter had to oppose EFCA because he is up for re-election next year, facing the possibility of strong opposition in the Republican primary.

"On the other hand, the general election poses exactly the other problem, Pennsylvania is a swing state the Democrats are there are a lot of lunch bucket union Democrats in Pennsylvania," Cain said.

Both the unions and their business opponents are throwing millions of dollars into campaign ads and candidate war chests. No matter which side they pick, lawmakers are likely to be punished by the other side.

Even some Democrats, including Sen. Feinstein, have not yet decided; she supported card check last time, but this time has expressed concerns about its impact on the economy. There was a pro union demonstration outside her office in the federal building two weeks ago. The San Francisco Labor Council organized the demonstration and it's executive director says it is too early to say it is over.

"You know the campaign is going to continue we're obviously disappointed that Sen. Specter has pulled his support we're not going to give up on him and we're not going to give up on our campaign," Tim Paulson said.

Locally supporters of EFCA have had much opposition. A couple of weeks ago a small group of pro card check demonstrators marched around the Wells Fargo headquarters, but a spokesman for the bank says it is not taking a position on EFCA.

The head of the labor council says he has not come across an opposition group or business in the Bay Area.

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