What: All Issues : Labor Rights : General Union Rights : HR 800. (Employee union formation) Motion to bring debate on a procedural motion to a close/On the cloture motion (2007 senate Roll Call 227)
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HR 800. (Employee union formation) Motion to bring debate on a procedural motion to a close/On the cloture motion
senate Roll Call 227     Jun 26, 2007
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This vote occurred on an attempt to bring debate on a motion to a close (known as a "cloture motion" in the Senate). If the Senate votes to "invoke cloture" – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation, amendment or motion in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious legislation where the leadership is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of unhappy politicians.

The cloture motion, offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would have had the effect of allowing the Senate to begin debating a bill allowing labor organizers to form a union without a secret ballot election if they can gather enough signatures on what is, in essence, a petition. In order to take up a bill on the Senate floor, all senators must unanimously agree to a "motion to proceed" to the piece of legislation. Republicans had objected repeatedly to allowing the motion to proceed to go forward, which would have allowed the bill to be debated on the floor. Thus, Democrats filed a motion to bring the stalling tactics to a close and have a vote on whether or not to bring the bill up on the floor.

Organized labor considers the bill a priority, and as Labor is a key Democratic Party constituency, the bill was also a priority for congressional Democrats. Democrats such as Joe Biden of Delaware also argue that it is harder now for unions to organize, and that steps should be taken to make union recognition easier, not harder. The amendment would eliminate employers' right to demand a secret ballot election before a union is created. Instead, union organizers could bypass elections by gathering a majority of employees' signatures on what is, in essence, a petition favoring recognizing the union. It also would create steps intended to force employers and unions toward agreement on initial contracts, and create new penalties for intimidating employees.

Business groups say it would be unfair to eliminate their right to demand a secret ballot for union organizing, adding that a secret ballot protects employees from unions that might use strong-arm tactics to gain members.

Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the legislation is "brazen kowtowing to union bosses. This bill creates the possibility that large union recruiters might come stand around you at the work site and encourage you to sign a card. They might visit your home. They might make phone calls. Fortunately, instead of that scenario, we have a secret ballot, and we ought to keep it," Alexander said.

John Kerry, D-Mass., countered that the real pressure tactics are brought by employers who don't want their workers to unionize. He said the bill would allow workers greater opportunity to unionize, and eliminate delaying tactics that some employers engage in when they are faced with the possibility of a new union.

"Once workers decide and demonstrate that they would like to unionize, our current system offers employers a window of time in which to lobby, cajole, and otherwise pressure them not to do so before holding a surreptitious secret vote. When presented with signatures from a majority of employees, employers can call for a secret election—delaying the process and creating a window of opportunity during which employers can hire antiunion consultants, conduct an unlimited number of employee meetings, and bar labor representatives from the workplace," Kerry said.

Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the debate on the measure is mostly pointless, since positions on the issue are already hardened. "We have the partisanship lined up on this matter to the virtual extreme. There is no effort behind the debate which we are undertaking today to get to the issues," Specter said.

The motion to end debate on the motion to proceed to the bill itself failed by a vote of 51-48. Though more senators voted yes than no, these types of motions require 60 yes votes before they are considered approved. Every Democrat voted for the motion to proceed to the measure. Every Republican voted against it, except for Specter. Thus, the motion to end debate on whether to proceed to the bill itself failed. Since Democrats could not muster enough votes to begin debate on the measure, they withdrew the bill itself.

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