It's on: the Employee Free Choice Act will be introduced in both the Senate and House this afternoon. Supporters of the bill held a press conference today at the Capitol, and the lead sponsors each released statements. Here's Sen. Ted Kennedy, EFCA's lead sponsor in the Senate:
The current crisis has shown us the dangers of an economy that leaves working families behind. The people who work in our factories, build our roads, and care for our children are the backbone of this great nation. The Employee Free Choice Act will give these hardworking men and women a greater voice in the decisions that affect their families and their futures. It's a critical step toward putting our economy back on track, and I hope that we can act quickly to send it to the President's desk.
And here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent opponent of the bill:
The right to a secret ballot is one which has been protected in America for hundreds of years because we know the value of political expression without fear of coercion. The attempt by some Democrats to take away this fundamental right goes against the ideals of political freedom upon which our nation was founded.
Not only will this legislation invite harassment and intimidation into the work place, it could also cost America even more jobs...
The bill would eliminate employer-mandated secret-ballot elections in the union organizing process, allowing workers to potentially form unions via petition. Labor likes it because it makes the organizing process easier; business alleges it will foster union intimidation. EFCA promises to be one of the more intense lobbying fights of the new Congress, with a Chamber of Commerce VP describing it as an "Armageddon" showdown between business and labor.
The lobbying fight has been on for some time now, but blitzes from both sides will likely follow after today's development. Right on cue, the Chamber led nearly 200 small business leaders to the Hill today to talk to their senators about it, and a similarly amped up effort from labor can be expected as well.
Update: Labor, it should be noted, had workers on the Hill today visiting congressional offices as well.