Specter to oppose union bill
WASHINGTON - In a setback for organized labor, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said yesterday he will oppose a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions.
Specter was the only Republican to support the Employee Free Choice Act two years ago, and unions were hoping he might be the crucial 60th vote needed to overcome an expected GOP filibuster of the measure when it is taken up this summer. Democrats and two independents who usually vote with them control 58 seats, and would control 59 if Democrat Al Franken is seated in the contested Minnesota race.
In a floor speech, Specter called it a "very emotional issue, with labor looking to this legislation to reverse the steep decline in union membership and business expressing great concern about added costs, which would drive many companies out of business or overseas."
Specter has faced unusually heavy pressure from both labor and business interests and is likely to face a tough re-election challenge next year.
Business groups, which have already spent more than $20 million to lobby against the bill, applauded the decision.
"We applaud the senator for taking a principled stand to support Main Street employers and workers in Pennsylvania," Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO - which earlier yesterday released a poll it commissioned that showed 72 percent of Americans favoring the bill - called Specter's decision "frankly a disappointment and a rebuke to working people, to his own constituents in Pennsylvania, and working families around the country."