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House union bill faces a tough battle

US Senate chamber

KAI RYSSDAL: The House is set to vote tomorrow on a bill that would make it easier for unions to organize. Business groups have put together one of their biggest lobbying efforts in years to defeat the bill. Labor groups are just as determined to get it passed. More from Nancy Marshall Genzer.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The fight is over a bill that says workers can unionize quickly — just by signing cards. Right now, employers can require a secret election, which takes months.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is leading a million-dollar campaign against the legislation with radio ads like this one, warning of what it says are the bill's dire consequences.

COMMERCIAL: The right to vote. The right to privacy. These are all at risk.

The ads encourage voters to pressure Congress to vote against the bill.

The Chamber's Michael Eastman says the campaign has produced tens of thousands of e-mails and letters to Capitol Hill.

MICHAEL EASTMAN: Based on the amount of response we're getting from our members and from other interested parties, I think we're certainly on that pace to be one of our biggest battles.

In fact, this fight could be bigger than the campaign for President Bush's tax cuts in 2001. The Chamber of Commerce is facing off against a half a million union activists.

Bill Samuel of the AFL-CIO says they're also swarming Capitol Hill.

BILL SAMUEL: They're really . . . the nuts and bolts of getting a bill passed in Congress is wearing out a lot of shoe leather. So we're visiting members of Congress, calling them and writing them.

The bill is expected to pass the House, but not the Senate.

Still, University of Pittsburgh business professor Merrick Masters says business groups want to set the tone for the future.

MERRICK MASTERS: You know there's sometimes you want to make certain something's dead? You want to beat this legislation down until it doesn't have another breath in it.

Unions say the bill will live to fight another day.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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