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March 10, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Today, Democrats in both the House and Senate will officially introduce organized labor’s chief legislative priority – the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) – for the 111th Congress. Normally, the introduction of a bill into Congress isn’t big news, but the battle over EFCA has been especially epic. The bill would be a huge boost for the formation of new unions, and probably the most significant change to US labor law since the 1950s. By taking away employers’ powers to demand a secret ballot elections for union certification after a majority of employees have already signed union authorization cards, EFCA would tip the scales significantly in the union organizers’ favor.

EFCA has been introduced in Congress every year since 2003. This is the first year that Congress has a real chance of passing it. The key to its passage is in the Senate. Republicans there will undoubtedly stage a filibuster, which will require a 60-vote majority for the Democrats to break. The Democrats currently occupy 58 seats in the Senate, which means they’ll have to hold all of their own party together on the vote, plus win support from a couple Republicans.

As the bill gets officially introduced, here are some relevant EFCA tidbits from the news, blogs and elsewhere:

  • Elana Schor at Talking Points Memo has a rundown of which senators in both parties are currently on the fence on EFCA.

  • On a similar beat, the WSJ reports that “at least six Senators who have voted to move forward with the so-called card-check proposal, including one Republican, now say they are opposed or not sure.” In the article Sen. Blance Lincoln (D-AR) called the bill “divisive and distracting.”

  • Media General News Service – "Labor advocates and business leaders are turning up the heat on freshman Sen. Mark Warner, a self-described ‘radical centrist.’”

  • Politico’s Ben Smith writes that EFCA creates jobs—for Republican political operatives who are being hired in hordes by business interests to lobby against the bill on Capitol Hill.

  • On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Billionaire investor Warren Buffet came out unequivocally against EFCA:

“I think the secret ballot’s pretty important in the country. I’m against card check to make a perfectly flat statement.”

Related: Media Matters notes that secret ballot elections are not actually required under current law.

  • The Workforce Fairness Institute released a new web video blasting the AFL-CIO for holding its annual meeting recently at the ritzy Fontainbleau resort in Miami:

Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas defied her state’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in 2007 by voting to make it easier for workers to join unions. This year, she may spurn organized labor. […]

Deborah Weinswig, a Citigroup Inc. analyst in New York, today downgraded Wal-Mart to hold from buy, saying the retailer would be the primary target of union organizing efforts if the card-check measure passes. That would increase labor costs and may limit expansion, she said.
  • Brurger King, who labor leader thought they had won over this year, is actually going to continue to fight against EFCA.

  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee held a hearing this morning on the EFCA, which is now archived (here).
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