WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked S.1041, the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would allow labor unions to organize workplaces without a secret ballot election.
The final vote was 51-48.
Democrats hoped to get the 60 votes needed to force consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act. This vote ended organized labor’s chance to win a top legislative priority from Congress.
Under the Senate bill, and a similar bill passed in the House in March, union activists would have been able to unionize a workplace by persuading a majority of employees to sign a card designating the union as their bargaining representative.
A “card check” procedure would enable union bosses to know how each participant had voted. Unions would only be required to gain the approval of half of all employees plus one to unionize.
“The principle of a secret ballot is deeply rooted in the American tradition, and workers here have enjoyed this freedom at the workplace by law for 60 years,” says U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “While it is unfortunate that Democrats would seek to reverse this right, Senate Republicans today stood firm in defending it.”
“Today’s vote shows that a majority of the United States Senate supports changing the law to restore working people’s freedom to make their own choice to join a union and bargain for a better life,” says John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. “That is a watershed achievement – one scarcely imagined just a couple of years ago – and an important step toward shoring up our nation’s struggling middle class.
“It is sad and shameful that Republican Senators chose to block the road to the middle class for millions of workers by throwing up procedural barricades from their minority position in Congress. Theirs is a stunt that working men and women will remember when they go to the ballot boxes in 2008.”
While Democrats and labor unions pressed for a vote in the Senate, the White House had it made it clear that it would veto the bill if passed.