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Union Bill May Be Dead

The so-called "card check" bill, which could revitalize the U.S. labor movement, was delivered a "death blow" today, in the words of the Hill, when Sen. Arlen Specter announced that he would oppose the legislation.

We broke down the battle between labor and business over card check, which would make it far easier for employees to form unions, here. The reason Specter's opposition is such a blow is that he was the only Republican thought to be considering backing the legislation; without him, Democrats likely cannot get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Specter was the only Republican to back the bill last time it was introduced.

Pro-business groups have been aggressively lobbying to stop the bill, formally known as the Employee Free Choice Act, and they quickly released statements applauding Specter's decision.

"Sen. Specter should be applauded for opposing this legislation which would have effectively eliminated secret ballots and cost our already weak economy countless more jobs," said J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Employee Freedom Action Committee.

The Workforce Fairness Institute and the Coalition For a Democratic Workplace, both business-backed groups, also applauded the decision, as did the National Association of Manufacturers and Associated Builders and Contractors.

It should be noted that card check backers say the legislation keeps the secret ballot option open. American Rights At Work, a labor-backed group, called Specter's announcement "inconsistent with his own record of support for working people."

Specter's statement is here; he noted the battle over the bill "has been the most heavily lobbied issue I can recall."

Specter said his main problem with the legislation is "the elimination of the secret ballot which is the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a democratic society."

He added that the recession is a "particularly bad time" to introduce the bill, as "employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses."

The decision may help Specter win support from conservatives and business interests in next year's closed Republican primary in Pennsylvania. One of the few Republicans to support the stimulus package, Specter is facing a tough challenge in the state from conservative Pat Toomey.

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