Legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize worksites suffered another body blow Monday when Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said she will oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as currently written.
"While I may not have been clear about my position in the past, I am stating today that I cannot support Employee Free Choice Act in its current form and I can't support efforts to bring it to Senate consideration in its current form," Arkansas Businessquoted Lincoln as saying in a statement. "I will consider alternatives that have the support of both business and labor but my pledge today is to focus my full attention on the priorities I have mentioned that affect every working family in Arkansas." The statement came out after Lincoln said much the same thing that day during a talk to the Little Rock, Ark., Political Animals Club.
Lincoln's stand matters a lot because supporters of the bill were believed to need every vote of every Democratic Senator--even Al Franken of Minnesota, once he finally is declared winner of his state's much-contested election--in order to overcome an exected Republican filibuster of the measure. And even with all 59 (including Franken) Democrats on board, supporters still would need to win over a Republican members to have the 60 votes needed to stop any filibuster and force a vote should the bill come up for debate.
Supporters had hoped that GOP member would be Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, but he declared on the Senate floor last month that he wouldn't take part. Since then several other senators softened their positions on the bill, and EFCA's supporters have begun examining how to make the legislation more palatable.
The legislation under consideration--H.R. 1409 and S. 560--would require that an employer recognize a union's bid to represent workers if a sufficient number of employees check off a card indicating they want union representation. As a result, it's also referred to as the "card-check bill." Currently, virtually all organizing campaigns end up being settled by a secret ballot of employees.
Labor unions have declared this issue their top priority for 2009, while business groups have been just as adamant against it. The National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Assocation made opposition to EFCA one of its three key talking points when members came to Washington last month for the group's annual legislative conference.
" I consider both the labor and the business communities to be my friends," Lincoln also said in her statement. "However, now that we need all hands on deck, including business and labor, to get our economy moving again, this issue is dividing us."