WASHINGTON — Newly installed Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., last week signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, known in the industry as “card check,” just hours after being sworn in.
The bill, which would make it easier for unions to organize, is strongly opposed by many business groups, including food retailers. It enjoys near-unanimous support from Democrats, but is opposed by all Senate Republicans.
As a Democrat, Franken represents the potential 60th vote that would be needed to prevent a Republican filibuster and push the bill through Congress. However, some Democrats have wavered in their support, and some — including Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., have said they would not support it.
Reports last week said several senators were working behind the scenes to draft compromise legislation. EFCA was introduced in March but has not yet come up for a vote in the Senate.
Although the fate of that bill, which is strongly supported by unions, is uncertain, Franken is seen as a keen supporter of other pro-labor issues that could come up in this year's Congress. During his campaign he pledged to support occupational safety laws and to push for companies to meet their pension-plan obligations.
Immediately after winning his long-contested Senate seat, Franken addressed an AFL-CIO meeting: “It is more than fair to say that if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have won,” he said, according to reports.