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WASHINGTON -- A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop the central provision of a bill that would have made it easier for workers to organize into unions.
The so-called "card-check provision"—which senators scraped to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes—would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions, The New York Times reported.
In place of the card-check provision, several Senate and labor officials said the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections.
While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders said this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing. Meanwhile, some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.
The card-check provision was so central to the legislation it was known as "the card-check bill." Labor had called the bill its No. 1 objective, and both labor and business deployed their largest, most expensive lobbying campaigns ever in the battle over it, the report stated.
Though some details remain to be worked out, under the expected revisions, union elections would have to be held within five or 10 days after 30 percent of workers signed cards favoring having a union. Currently, the campaigns often run two months.
To further address labor’s concerns that the election process is tilted in favor of employers, key senators are considering several other measures. One would require employers to give union organizers access to company property. Another would bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union sessions that labor supporters deride as "captive audience meetings."
Labor unions have pushed aggressively to enact the bill—formally, the Employee Free Choice Act. They view it as essential to reverse labor’s long decline. Just 7.6 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions, one-fifth the rate of a half-century ago, the Times reported.
Union leaders argue that under current law, unionization elections are often unfair because, they say, employers have a huge opportunity to intimidate and pressure workers during the lengthy campaigns that precede the unionization vote. Business leaders on the other hand, say the current system is fair, asserting unions lose so many elections because workers oppose paying union dues and do not feel they need unions to represent them.
Union officials have urged the White House and Senate leaders to schedule a vote this month. But Senate leaders have told labor that the Senate is so preoccupied with health care legislation that September would be the earliest time to take up the pro-union legislation.
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