The Employee Free Choice Act passed the House today, on a vote of 241 to 185. While WAPO describes it as a nearly party-line vote, it's notable that a number of Republics crossed party line to support the measure. Would that have happened a year ago?
The Act would permit unions to be certified by a "card check," that is, by turning in signed cards from more than half of the workers. Companies typically prefer to make the union win an election. While a secret ballot might sound democratic, in fact election campaigns give management the chance to use a large number of unfair (and illegal) tactics to defeat attempts to organize. All too often, employees are threatened with firing; active union supporters frequently do lose their jobs. Even if unfair labor practices can be proved, obtaining relief from the NLRB is a tortuous process and, with the Board dominated by Republics, anything but certain. Card checks result in a lot fewer complaints about management strongarming.
The Republics have vowed to block the Act in the Senate and the White House promises a veto if it should somehow pass, so it won't become law this year. But its advance is a sign that the wind may be changing and that labor's long-sought resurgence may, at last, be gathering steam.