What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Individuals in the Workplace : H.R. 800 The Employee Free Choice Act/On passage
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H.R. 800 The Employee Free Choice Act/On passage
house Roll Call 118     Mar 01, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

Perhaps the most dramatic indication yet of how the new Democratic Congress intends to distinguish itself from more than a decade of Republican control, the House passed a sweeping labor reform bill that would make it easier for unions to organize. The bill passed with almost unanimous support from Democrats, with additional votes from moderate Republicans. Democrats successfully beat back a handful of amendments authored by Republicans that Democratic leaders said would essentially have gutted the bill. Republicans failed in their strategy to peel off enough moderate Democrats to weaken portions of the bill most anathema to business interests. Overall, the legislation would make it easier for workers to join unions by requiring employers to recognize a new union through what's commonly known as a card-check procedure. Under current law, if a majority of workers within a given organization sign union cards to organize themselves, the union is only formed after employer consent. Instead of doing so, companies often steer the election through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a process that makes it considerably difficult for a union to be recognized. The legislation mandates that companies recognize unionizing efforts among their workers if a majority of employees sign cards supporting the union. The business lobby, with a heavy push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that such a requirement effectively ends secret balloting in union elections, as the cards do not have to be collected blindly, and opens up the possibility of labor unions coercing employees. Labor interests countered that such a change is necessary because the current system allows employers to coerce workers away from unions and to hold up legitimate organizing efforts for years. Several moderate Republicans, under heavy pressure from their leadership to vote against the bill, said that the bill's compromise of the secret ballot is what ultimately determined their "no" votes. "There are parts that I would like to see move forward and I very much support," including tougher penalties for companies that violate the law, said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). But for Diaz-Balart, as for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) , the secret ballot was tantamount. "I believe strongly in that fundamental right" to join a union, Capito said, "but I also believe that the right to a secret ballot is just as important." Ultimately, 13 Republicans joined 228 Democrats in voting to make it easier for workers to join a union. Two Democrats joined ranks with 183 Republicans in voting against the measure. The bill thus passed by a vote of 241-185, and moved to the Senate. The president also threatened to veto the measure.

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