Specter Raises EFCA Hopes: "Prospects Are Pretty Good"

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter said Thursday the "prospects are pretty good" for a compromise on legislation making it easier for workers to form unions.

Specter had come out against the bill in March, disappointing labor leaders. They had hoped he would be the crucial 60th vote needed to overcome an expected GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Pennsylvania senator has since switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, and he said he's been meeting with labor leaders and fellow senators in hopes of coming up with a compromise he could support.

President Barack Obama also said Thursday that he hoped a compromise could be worked out that would "get enough votes to pass the bill."

A top priority of labor groups, the bill would allow a majority of employees at a work site to form a union by signing cards and would take away the right of employers to demand secret ballot elections. It would impose stiffer penalties on employers who threaten workers who try to organize unions and would provide for government arbitration if management and workers cannot agree on a first contract.

Specter has said he opposes the "card check" and arbitration provisions of the bill. But he does support other union-friendly alternatives such as speeding up the election process and giving unions more access to campaign at work sites.

Specter faces the prospect of a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., and pro-union groups have placed intense pressure on him to support the bill as a condition of their support.

Randel Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president on labor issues, said business leaders are against negotiating from the card check bill as a starting point "because it's too radical of a place to start."