July 6, 2007 Volume 108 Number 13
block vote on labor organizing bill
D.C. — Although there was enough support to win on a straight
up or down vote, Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a vote on
organized labor’s most important bill this session —
the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800).
a margin of 51-48, the Senate on June 26 voted for cloture. That
is, to shut off debate on the legislation. Sixty votes are needed
to invoke cloture and end the debate and move to a vote on the bill.
is sad and shameful that Republican senators chose to block the
road to the middle class by throwing up procedural barricades from
their minority position,” said national AFL-CIO President
U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, who is up for re-election next year, was
among the Republicans voting against cloture. He also would have
voted against the bill. Smith told The Hill magazine, “It’s
a payback to labor for their support. It’s not something supported
by the American people.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, and Washington Democrats Patty
Murray and Maria Cantwell voted to end debate. All three were co-sponsors
of the legislation. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was
the only Republican voting for cloture.
other things, the Employee Free Choice Act would have written “majority
signup” (also called card-check recognition) into labor law,
raised fines for labor law-breaking to $20,000 per violation, mandated
mediation and arbitration if labor and management could not agree
on a first contract within 90 days and outlawed employers’
“captive audience” anti-union meetings.
and business lobbyists spent millions of dollars to derail the legislation,
and the Bush Administration mobilized high-level bureau- crats —
at taxpayer expense — to campaign against it.
Secretary Elaine Chao called it “a sad day for America”
after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employee Free
Choice Act in March by a vote of 241-185.
profoundly disappointed by Senator Smith’s failure to support
democracy in the workplace, even after more than 5,000 Oregonians
personally sought his support,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President
Tom Chamb- erlain. “Every 23 seconds an American worker is
disciplined or fired for trying to join a union. Sen. Smith stopped
his colleagues from helping curb this abuse.”
a multi-millionaire, owns a frozen food company in Pendleton. Employees
there are unionized under a contract with the Teamsters.
2002, Oregon Teamsters Joint Council No. 37 endorsed Smith in the
general election. But according to Teamsters Representative Lynn
Lehrbach, the jury is still out for 2008. “His vote against
the Employee Free Choice Act is certainly a strike against him,”
Tarpinian, executive director of the Change to Win labor federation,
said now that labor knows were everyone stands on EFCA, it will
use that information. “In 2008, we need to elect a bigger
majority and a new president who will champion the interests of
presidential candidates from the Democratic Party support the bill,
while none from the Republican Party has expressed support. Sixteen
governors — including Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski, who was
the first governor in the nation to endorse it, and Washington’s
Chris Gregoire — and nearly 1,300 state and local elected
officials in all 50 states are on board in support of the legislation.