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No Letup in Card Check Lobbying

Despite faltering support for a bill that would make it easier for unions to organize, backers of the Employee Free Choice Act are continuing to push key Senators to move forward on the legislation.

After a two-week recess during which big business and unions blanketed lawmakers’ districts with anti- and pro-“card check” rallies, advertisements and phone calls, both sides are soldiering on in what has become a multiyear, multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign.

Although there have been rumblings among labor organizers, including Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern, that unions may be open to a compromise, pro-EFCA groups showed no mercy on Capitol Hill this week.

“We’re coming off the recess, where we’ve made the biggest grass-roots effort around a legislative issue that we’ve made in recent memory,” said Bill Samuel, head of AFL-CIO’s government affairs operation.

Union organizers held more than 400 grass-roots events, sent more than 27,000 letters to Members of Congress and put in nearly 100,000 calls supporting EFCA. Additionally, the unions spent more than $1 million on two TV ads over the recess, AFL-CIO spokeswoman Amaya Smith said.

Samuel downplayed any talk of modifying EFCA to make it more palatable for business.

“I don’t think the question is ‘Are we open to compromise?’” Samuel said. “The way Congress works, a bill is marked up, amendments are offered, it’s either improved or weakened, and you make a judgment at that time.

Stern “is firm about the principles and of getting labor law passed in this Congress, and we are too,” he added, referring to Stern’s comments to the Washington Post editorial board, in which the SEIU president noted that “no matter what you do, you have to change the election process.”

SEIU spokeswoman Christy Setzer echoed Samuel’s call of dedication to passing the EFCA.

“Given our current economic crisis, now more than ever, we remain committed to the principles of the Employee Free Choice Act: allowing workers, not employers, to choose how and when to form a union; enforcing real penalties for employers who break the law; and ensuring that those who’ve chosen a union can actually secure a contract,” Setzer said in a statement.

Keeping that message in mind, labor organizers are continuing to put pressure on lawmakers.

Jobs with Justice, a national campaign for workers’ rights, kicked off union actions Wednesday with a press conference moderated by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed.”

EFCA supporter Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also attended, rallying attendees to continue to press the Senate to pass the card check bill.

Brown, whose daughter works as an organizer at the SEIU, told union leaders that the opposition to the bill is largely the same business types that have historically opposed Medicare, Social Security and the minimum wage.

Ricardo Valadez of Jobs with Justice agreed with Brown.

“We’ve been fighting for reform for labor legislation for years,” Valadez said. “It will be hard, but there are a lot of different ways to get to 60 votes.”

The group had representatives from Colorado, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia, Maine and Missouri on Capitol Hill meeting with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and aides from the offices of Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Bob Bennett (D-Colo.).

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