Senate Dems set union threat v. GOP

Pressure tactics likely to pay off, sooner or later

The odds are slim for getting the legislation organized labor supports through the Senate, yet HAI reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is lining them up for floor action. The legislation may fall short of the 60 votes needed to move anything controversial through the Senate, but it is an election year and putting senators on the record with roll call votes can be enough.

Swing-state Republicans might even be persuaded to cast a vote that lets them avoid being targeted in a campaign ad — a possibility that only adds to GOP annoyance with Reid’s agenda choices.

In the next several weeks, Senator Reid intends to call up a number of union-friendly measures, including legislation drafted in response to the tide of home foreclosures (HR 3221); a manager’s amendment to climate change legislation (S 3036), which the Senate is slated to take up Monday, including language requiring that workers on projects to bolster renewable-energy facilities be paid the local prevailing wage — the latest in a series of attempts to expand the Davis-Bacon Act; legislation to expand collective-bargaining rights for firefighters and other public safety employees (HR 980); and an unemployment insurance extension and a moratorium on seven proposed Medicaid regulations.

The short-term efforts are focused on proposals intended to help low-income people in the current economic downturn. Expectations are for a second economic stimulus bill, this time focused on help for states with budget problems and funding for infrastructure instead of tax rebate checks, which were the centerpiece of the first stimulus package (PL 110-185).

Looking ahead, unions will also be pushing for stronger penalties for workplace safety violations, an expansion of family and medical leave, and the defeat of trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea.

The chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, has said he intends to seek another floor vote before the November elections on legislation (HR 2831) intended to bolster the right of workers to sue employers for wage discrimination. Confidence is high for the future prospects of the Kennedy legislation in the next Congress, particularly if Democrats clinch the White House or pick up Senate seats.


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