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June 26, 2009
Union rep: card check vote imminent

A bill that has drawn the acclaim of union organizers and the ire of business owners may be decided on within weeks.

The Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check, needs 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to move forward. And according to AFL-CIO spokesman Marty Marks, this could come any day.

“Everything has kind of been waiting on Al Franken being seated in Minnesota,” Marks said during a visit to Somerset. “Once that happens things are going to move pretty quickly.”

Franken, a Democrat and card check supporter, is hoping the Minnesota Supreme Court will deny an appeal from Norm Coleman, his Republican opponent. The state’s canvassing board has already certified Franken’s Senate victory by a narrow 225-vote margin.

Union activists aren’t the only ones paying attention to this legislation’s progress.

“It’s as big a deal as it seems,” confirmed Brett McMahon, vice president of Miller and Long Construction of Bethesda, Md. “It’s a game-changer that I don’t know if the American economy could recover from.”

McMahon is a member of Associated Builders & Contractors, a national trade organization whose members have been galvanized by the prospect of the bill’s passage.

“This is the most organized and unified that American employers have ever been,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Marks and McMahon exemplify the polar opposites of a fierce political debate.

The arguments go something like this: Those in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act say it changes the way employees can organize a union; and those against say it destroys the private ballot process.

“There needs to be a process for much quicker elections so that workers can avoid these endless delays,” said Marks, adding that employers have effectively stalled pro-union election results for at least two years about 56 percent of the time.

“There has to be a way to get to a first contract. It’s clearly a problem,” he said.

McMahon would disagree.

“We think the rules already heavily favor organized labor to begin with,” McMahon said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, who recently changed his party affiliation to Democrat, remains one of the wild cards in this ongoing legislative debate.

According to Marks, supporters of this bill are confident of the senator’s backing.

“He’s part of our formula for 60 votes. We believe he’s going to come through,” Marks said of the Pennsylvania legislator.

“He’s in a tough position,” added McMahon, who was more reluctant to venture a guess. “I wouldn’t put money on either side of that coin.”

America’s unionized private workforce has declined by approximately 27 percent since 1958. This, according to McMahon, has been a sign that unions have failed to respond to workers and market forces.

“(Small businesses) have to be nimble and flexible in their costs,” McMahon said. “Labor unions have not figured out a way to deal with that.”

He added that this reduction has led to a retirement and pension crisis for labor organizations.

“If you understand the Social Security problem, then you understand their problem,” McMahon said.

Marks — not surprisingly — takes issue with that statement.

“That’s not what’s driving this by any means,” he said. “This is about workers’ rights.”

He added that the bill enables the working man to fight back against corporate America.

“There has to be tougher penalties for those who violate labor laws,” Marks said.

And if his prediction of a forthcoming cloture vote is accurate, the last word may soon be heard on this bill — loud and clear.





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