How big is Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement he will oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, the biggest item on Big Labor’s wish list in Congress? Well, pretty big. The Pennsylvania Republican was the only GOP senator who voted for the act in the last session of Congress, so his opposition means Democrats will be one vote short of being able to advance the legislation to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.
The act would all but eliminate the secret ballot from the process used by workers to decide whether they want to be represented by a union. Under the bill a union would be certified once it got just over 50 percent of employees in a workplace to sign certification cards. The sign-up process is public, meaning an individual’s position on bringing in a union could be known by everyone else, creating the potential for peer pressure and other tactics.
Of course, Specter wouldn’t be Specter if he didn’t reserve the right to change his mind later, which he said he might do under different economic conditions and if some labor rules aren’t changed.
By the way, Specter likely will be challenged in next year’s GOP primary by former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, who almost beat him in 2004.