Fact: Obama opposes workers' voting rights

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So-called 'Free Choice' would impose unions on disinterested workers without a secret-ballot election

The Statement: In a speech Monday, October 13, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain took on Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama's stance on unions. "Senator Obama is measuring the drapes (in the White House), and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to … take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections," he said.

The Facts: McCain is referring to a plan supported by labor union leaders. Currently, workers must get a majority of their colleagues to sign an authorization form to ask for union representation — then hold a secret-ballot vote to finalize it. The change Obama supports would let a union be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board immediately after a majority of workers sign the authorization.

Supporters of the change, including the AFL-CIO and other unions, say it would cut down on the ability of employers to pressure their workers to vote against a union. Business groups, meanwhile, say the opposite — that the secret ballot allows workers who don't want to unionize to publicly sign off on the plan, pleasing union leaders, then privately vote against it.

The change is part of the Employee Free-Choice Act, which Obama co-sponsored. The plan is designed to make it easier to create unions in the workplace, and both supporters and opponents agree it would increase the number of union members in the United States. Backers say it will lead to better wages and benefits for workers and increase the size of the middle class, while opponents say it will hurt businesses by costing them more at a time when profits for many are already thin.

The bill passed the House last year by a vote of 241-185. It was also supported in the Senate, 51-48 — but that didn't reach the 60 votes that would have been needed to survive a filibuster on a final vote. That's also not enough to override a veto by President Bush, who is against it. Obama and running mate Sen. Joe Biden voted on June 26, 2007, to move the bill forward, while McCain voted against it.

Verdict: True. McCain accurately represents Obama's stance, although the candidates disagree on the merits of the plan. Organized labor backs Obama's position, while business groups and some non-union workers support McCain's.


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