What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Individuals in the Workplace : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to make it an "unfair labor practice" to collectively bargain with a union that has not been established by secret ballot/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 260)
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to make it an "unfair labor practice" to collectively bargain with a union that has not been established by secret ballot/On the motion
senate Roll Call 260     Jul 19, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on a procedural motion to allow an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would have declared it an "unfair labor practice" to recognize or collectively bargain with a union that was not established through a secret ballot. In U.S. law, "unfair labor practice" has a specific definition that encompasses actions taken that violate federal labor laws. These acts get investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.

The amendment was an extension of a partisan fight in June over a bill that would have specifically allowed labor organizers to form a union without a secret ballot election, if enough signatures could be gathered on a petition. Democrats were unable to garner enough support to overcome a filibuster of the bill and therefore were unable to bring it to the floor. However, Republicans remain concerned about the possibility of Democrats attempting to resurrect the issue.

DeMint's amendment would have the effect of making it impossible to form a union without a secret ballot election, which employers may, but are not required to, currently demand. Business groups want to preserve their ability to demand a secret ballot arguing that it protects employees from unions that might use strong-arm tactics to gain members.

The amendment was offered to an unrelated bill that would, in essence, take nearly $19 billion in federal subsidies away from student loan lenders and instead redirect that money into new student loans, among other items related to enabling more students to be able to afford college tuitions.

"My amendment is very simple. It guarantees that every American worker will get a secret ballot election when deciding whether to join a union. This is especially important because there are some in this body who want to take this right away and conduct union elections by card check. This approach would open workers to harassment, intimidation, and other forms of union pressure," DeMint said.

Democrats counter that the real pressure tactics are brought by employers who don't want their workers to unionize. They also argue that eliminating employers' ability to demand a secret ballot would allow workers greater opportunity to unionize, and prevent delaying tactics that some employers engage in when they are faced with the possibility of a new union.

"I do not know what bothers the Senator from South Carolina, being antiworker, anti-union. We know this is the most antiworker, anti-union administration," said Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. "This has nothing to do with education. It is an insult to the workers' committees of this country."

Arguing that the amendment is not related (or "germane") enough to the underlying bill, Kennedy made a procedural motion that DeMint's amendment be struck down. In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Kennedy moved to have the amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough to the underlying bill, DeMint called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for his amendment.

By a vote of 42-54, the Senate rejected DeMint's request that it waive its rules for his amendment. All but six Republicans present voted for waiving the rules and allowing DeMint's amendment to go forward. All Democrats present voted against waiving the rules, and thus against DeMint's amendment. The waiver vote was unsuccessful, thus DeMint's amendment that would have eliminated the ability for unions to organize without a secret ballot was defeated on a procedural motion.

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