Senate to Consider Bill on Forming Labor Unions

The Senate is due to take up a bill that's critical to the survival of America's beleaguered labor movement.

The bill would make it much easier to form a union, allowing workers to just sign a card instead of having to request a secret ballot election.

But businesses are working hard to kill it and President Bush has vowed a veto.

Introduced in March, the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 amends the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient way for employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations in stopping unfair labor practices during organizing efforts.

Currently if workers want to form a union, their employer can demand a secret ballot election.

But unions maintain that those elections are often unfair. They say companies target union sympathizers and bully workers during a drawn-out election process.

Don Collette, who used to work for a truck rental company in Las Vegas, describes what happened in a campaign a few years back: "They would grab you by the arm and pull you outside, and they would say, 'I want to know what you know about the union right now. I want to know who's doing what.' They want names and they want dates.

"They would threaten to close the shop; they would threaten to take our benefits away from us; they would threaten pay cuts," Collette said.

But the Employee Free Choice Act, commonly referred to as the card-check bill, would allow workers to form a union if more than half of an organization's employees sign their names to a card.

Some Republican lawmakers have said this would allow unions to form stealth campaigns to organize shops without the employers ever knowing.

Businesses agree, saying unions would abuse such a system, and they recently spent $500,000 on print and TV ads to make that point.

One of the ads quip: "What if labor bosses controlled class elections?" A boy in a black T-shirt and sunglasses asks before explaining possible new rules to his incredulous classmates. "I want to assure you that a vote for me is best for you. Just sign these cards showing us who you like the best and my campaign committee will collect and count them."

It's a sign of business owners' concern.

Both sides say the bill will fail this year. But each is trying to position itself for 2009 — that is when unions hope to have a Democrat in the White House, who could help make card check the law of the land.

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