President Barack Obama told AFL-CIO union leaders Tuesday in a videotaped address that the controversial Employee Free Choice Act will pass, signaling his full backing for legislation that makes union organizing easier.
“We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act,” President Obama told more than 100 top labor officials in a closed-door meeting at the labor federation’s winter gathering in Miami, according to people at the meeting.
The bill would make it easier for unions to recruit workers because it would let them join unions simply by signing cards rather than through secret-ballot elections in which companies can campaign against the union. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have been campaigning against the legislation.
The president’s remarks were taped on Feb. 20, according to a White House spokesman. Following his remarks, AFL-CIO officials held a meeting with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
The Employee Free Choice Act is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks in the Senate. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in an interview that to help get the bill through Congress, it could be amended in the Senate, where support is narrower, before it reaches the House. “We wouldn’t be surprised if there were attempts to amend the bill,” he said.
Organized labor plans to mobilize workers in states where support is weakest among Democratic lawmakers, lobby lawmakers directly and get companies that support the bill to endorse it publicly. Labor leaders didn’t name companies targeted in this effort.
Business groups say they will intensify their lobbying against the bill as it is introduced. Randel Johnson, vice president of labor policy for the Chamber of Commerce, said the group will focus its heaviest lobbying efforts on senators in about seven states, and that an endorsement of the bill by a small number of companies “would not affect the political dynamic,” because employer opposition to the bill is “overwhelming.”
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