Obama to Unions: Card Check Will Pass
(NEWSMAX) WASHINGTON — With renewed support from the White House, labor officials said Wednesday they are confident that legislation making it easier to unionize workplaces will pass Congress this year.
President Barack Obama offered some of his most supportive comments for the Employee Free Choice Act since he took office this week, telling AFL-CIO members in a videotaped message Tuesday that he will work to pass the bill.
"As we confront this crisis and work to provide health care to every American, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, move toward a clean energy economy and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, I want you to know that you will always have a seat at the table," Obama told the federation as it held its winter meeting in Miami Beach.
Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO’s legislative director, dismissed speculation that some Democratic supporters may waver under pressure from business groups.
"There are some members who prefer to sort of stay behind the curtain, as it were, until the vote is closer," Samuel told reporters in a conference call. "I’m not surprised there are some signals being sent that might sound confusing, but we’re very confident."
Samuel said he expects the long-anticipated bill to be introduced "in days or weeks" and a vote as early as sometime this spring.
Union leaders believe this year offers the best chance in a generation for wholesale reform of labor laws that, after years of decline, would swell the ranks of organized labor — now about 12 percent of the work force — by millions of new members.
Business groups have waged an all-out advertising and lobbying campaign against the card check bill for months, claiming it would allow workers to be intimidated by union bosses.
The bill would allow a union to be certified when a majority of workers at a plant signed cards authorizing it and take away the right of employers to demand a secret ballot vote by employees seeking to organize.
The card-check bill sailed through the House two years ago, but couldn’t muster 60 votes in the Senate to override a GOP filibuster. Every Democrat, and two Democratic-leaning independents, backed the bill, but Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was the only Republican to support it.
Since then, Democrats have padded their Senate majority. Samuel said the bill would win 60 votes this time if every lawmaker who voted for it last time stays on board and every new Democrat votes in favor. That assumes Minnesota Democrat Al Franken wins a contested Senate race and is seated.
Randy Johnson, vice president for labor issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said several lawmakers only supported it last time because they knew it wouldn’t pass. This year "we’ve been making the issue red-hot and therefore persuading the senators that they need to reevaluate their position," Johnson said.
Anti-card check forces have been leaning on potential vote-switchers, including Specter, and several Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.
"The employer community has taken this much more serious this time around because they know it’s real," Johnson said.
Asked specifically about Lincoln, Pryor and Landrieu, Samuel said he is confident all three would vote to end a filibuster on the bill.
Pryor said in a written statement Wednesday that the legislation "is not perfect, and while I have been supportive in the past, I will consider amendments to make it better if and when it is considered by the Senate."
Spokeswoman Leah Vest said Lincoln "is more concerned today about putting 90,000 jobless Arkansans back to work, and she’ll worry later about collective bargaining rules when the issue comes to a vote in the Senate."
Landrieu spokesman Aaron said the senator is "carefully reviewing" the bill and meeting with groups on both sides