House Passes Bill on Union Vote

The House has passed a bill that would make it easier for workers to create a union. Employees could simply sign a card instead of having to hold a secret ballot election.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And organized labor won a big victory yesterday. House lawmakers passed a bill that would make it easier to unionize workers. President Bush says he will veto such a bill. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT: It's called card check and it would streamline the process for forming a union. A majority of workers would just have to sign cards saying they want one. Under the current system, companies can demand a secret ballot election. But organized labor says these elections are anything but fair.

They say employers pressure workers to vote against the union and then challenge the results if they use. This is Representative George Miller, a California Democrat.

Representative GEORGE MILLER (Democrat, California): Today you get harassed, you get intimidated, you get an election and after the election, you get appeals and you get endless bargaining.

LANGFITT: But businesses say card check is just a desperate attempt by organized labor to stem decades of decline. They also say it will lead to bullying tactics and runs counter to basic Democratic principles.

Representative Buck McKeon, a California Republican, contrasted Card Check with the process that brought him and his fellow House members to Washington.

Representative BUCK MCKEON (Republican, California): We trusted democracy, we trusted the voters to cast their ballots like adults - freely, openly, without intimidation.

LANGFITT: Representative Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican, said labor organizers could win the fight before an employer can respond.

Representative SAM JOHNSON (Republican, Texas): Card checks can be conducted so quickly that mom and pop employers rarely have a chance to address employees during an organizing campaign, resulting in an one-sided discussion between union and an employee.

LANGFITT: The bill passed the House by more than 50 votes. A similar bill will be introduced in the Senate soon. But the margin in the House isn't enough to override a White House veto. Organized labor, though, is already looking to 2008 when it hopes to elect a Democrat who will sign the bill.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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