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Controversial 'card check' bill back for fourth time

The business community says the bill, which makes it easier for workers to unionize, would be a job killer.

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It’s also a game-changing issue for Republicans, who often find themselves targeted by labor activists in campaign seasons. “A lot of union dues are used to run campaigns against Republicans,” says Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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“What this would do is allow a huge pot of money to be accumulated to change the composition of Congress and pave the way for a big union agenda, which I think is the wrong direction when we’re worried about creating and retaining jobs,” he adds.

One of the most controversial features of the bill requires government arbitration if a contract dispute goes past 90 days.

Employers say it gives government an outsized hand in the management of business.

“That means that a government arbiter, who knows nothing about my business structure, is determining under what rules and conditions I’m going to operate,” says Bruce Josten, top lobbyist for the US Chamber of Commerce, which strongly opposes the bill.

“Not only does it set terms of employment, work rules, and wages, but an employer is bound by it for two years,” he adds.
A similar bill passed the House on March 1, 2007, by a vote of 241 to 185. On June 26, 2007, it fell nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate.

In both houses, some lawmakers who have sponsored the bill in years past are holding off on their endorsements. Critics say that’s because with enhanced Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill, the bill has a real chance of passing this year – and sponsors will take heat for its consequences.

“I’m just waiting for it to unfold in committee and see what it looks like when it hits the floor,” says Sen. Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas, who backed the bill in the last Congress.

“When business groups contact me in Arkansas, I listen to them just as I do to unions. My sense is we can find common ground on this, but we’re not just there yet,” he adds.

Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, a GOP moderate who has helped broker many of the bipartisan deals in the Senate, says that she is opposing this bill because it does not guarantee a secret ballot to ensure that workers will be protected from intimidation – and because it gives government too heavy a hand in contract negotiations. The binding arbitration provisions in the bill “would be the most significant change in labor law in decades, and I think it’s ill advised,” she says.