Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2014

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LABOR:

Card check battle takes center stage at Capitol

If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was campaign season. The two parties have been battling all week over a union-backed bill that would make it easier for workers to organize.

The Employee Free Choice Act has yet to even get floor time in the new Congress but the campaigns to secure its passage — and defeat — have been dueling as if the vote were tomorrow.

This week saw the release of a poll, ad campaigns and attacks and counterattacks unfolding. Thousands of workers are expected to storm the Hill in coming days to support the bill.

On Friday Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of American Rights at Work, a pro-Employee Free Choice Act group, held a conference call to counter opponents’ latest poll. And the other side was setting up a conference call to counter the counterattack.

All this comes as President Barack Obama’s choice for labor secretary, Rep. Hilda Solis of California, continues to face opposition from Republican senators on the Hill stalling her confirmation in part because she was unable to clearly give her opinion on the legislation.

“Free Hilda Solis,” ran the headline on a news release sent Friday by the environmental group League of Conservation Voters.

The group is pressing for her confirmation so the Labor Department can begin developing green energy jobs.

Solis, who was among the first of Obama’s nominees to have a Senate hearing, may be the last to be confirmed.

She has been a strong supporter of the bill as a Democratic congresswoman, but declined during her confirmation hearing to clearly state a view, saying she had yet to discuss the issue with Obama.

The stakes are high for the bill, which would alter the workplace landscape more fundamentally than any labor law in years, experts say.

The bill would make it easier for unions to organize by giving workers the option of simply signing cards if they want to form a union. The bill would return the system back to the one that had been in place for decades before business intervened and required secret ballot elections.

Secret ballot elections would still be allowed, but workers would have the option of bypassing them. Union officials say in the time it takes to hold elections, managers often pressure employees against the union.

The bill is being closely watched in Las Vegas and across the country by labor unions and business interests.

On the Strip, passage of the bill would allow workers at the remaining nonunion casinos to more readily form unions.

“We must level the playing field and give workers a free choice in joining a union,” Maxwell said. She pointed to a poll taken in December that showed 73 percent of those surveyed support passage of the bill.

“They get it — they get that the current company-dominated system isn’t working.”

But the Center for Union Facts, one of the anti-Employee Free Choice Act groups, put out a poll earlier in the week that found voters believe the bill will cost jobs.

Both sides are burning through cash in the race to sway voter opinion, saying they plan to spend $10 million on the campaigns.

Maxwell said her group has spent that much since Labor Day, and plans to spend more. She declined to give an amount.

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