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WASHINGTON – Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) signaled a major blow to the Employee Free Choice Act. Although he co-sponsored the bill in 2003 and tried to prevent a filibuster of it from his own party in June 2007, to the dismay of unions Specter on Tuesday reversed positions, essentially announcing that this time around he would oppose the bill.
Even if Minnesota seats Al Franken to give Democrats a 59th vote on the bill, the bill would need Specter to pass. In 2007 Specter was the single Republican to not oppose the bill by voting for cloture, an immediate vote, on a debate that would have been forever stalled by filibuster.
“The problems of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employees Free Choice legislation,” Senator Specter declared on the floor of the Senate. “Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses.”
Presently employers have the power to decide whether workers hold a secret-ballot election or check a card publicly to vote for unionization. If the Employee Free Choice Act passes, employees can initiate the unionizing process by having 50% of employees plus one sign a card.
Unions announced that they would support Senator Specter in his reelection bid in 2010 if he supported the bill. The Republican senator from Pennsylvania might have considered that with potential political friends making announcements like this, who needs enemies. An AFL-CIO endorsement would hamper Specter in Pennsylvania’s elective process.
Regarding such postulating, Specter declared, “This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advance. I have not traded my vote in the past and I would not do so now."
Small businesses, franchising firms and franchise owner-operators have been concerned that this bill could more easily bring labor unions into their enterprises. Many of their trade associations gave praise to Senator Specter’s change of position.
Matthew Shay, chief executive officer of the International Franchise Association, a lobbying group representing some 1,300 paying franchisor and 500 vendor members, responded to the announcement. “We applaud Senator Specter’s decision to support small business owners’ efforts to operate their operations free of unfair and misguided labor policies,” he said. “If enacted, this bill will severely harm small businesses across the country at a time when they are struggling to stay afloat.”
The largest association of hotel owners in the country, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, hopes that other Senators will follow Senator Specter’s lead. “Senator Specter has shown tremendous courage and strength in announcing his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act,” said AAHOA Chairman Ash Patel. “When leaders step forward and stay true to American values such as upholding the private ballot, everyone benefits and this country prospers.”
AAHOA Vice Chairman Tarun Patel agrees. “Senator Specter’s announcement is a major step forward in the fight to stop this legislation from being passed," he states. "Senator Specter will receive strong support from small business owners and the AAHOA community as a result of his decision, and we can only hope that other Senators and members of Congress will follow his lead.”
It is widely anticipated that Democrats would need to pick up a couple of votes from across the aisle for the bill to pass. The so-called “card-check” bill has been hit a very hard blow.
Jim Coen, president of the Dunkin Donut Independent Franchise Owners, summarizes, “I hope this is the end for what could have been a game-changing detrimental bill for a lot of small businesses across the country.”