Chamber makes swing through DC on card check

A small band of business leaders dispatched by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce just completed a swing through Nevada's congressional offices to lobby against the "card check" legislation.

The trip appeared to yield few revelations. The state's five federal reps are expected to follow their party lines during consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, although pressure from both labor and business interests still is expected to be brisk.

Democrat Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus have yet to announce their positions. Berkley was a cosponsor of the bill in the last Congress and both lawmakers enjoy backing from organized labor that is pressing hard for passage.

In separate meetings with the Las Vegas chamber, Berkley and Titus said they "wanted to hear both sides of the issue," Chamber chairman Steve Hill said. "I was very happily surprised."

The seven-member visiting delegation had short meetings with Sen. Harry Reid (for card check), and Sen. John Ensign (against card check.) They were not able to meet with Rep. Dean Heller, who is against card check.

The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier to unionize workplaces. It would allow a union to be certified when a majority of workers sign authorization cards, no longer requiring a secret ballot election to ratify the decision.

Businesses and organized labor are both going all-out on the biggest workplace debate in years. Employers say the bill would allow labor organizers to muscle workers into signing union cards.

Labor groups say it would "level the playing field" for improved working conditions and benefits for workers.

The key swing votes on the bill appear to be held by a handful of Democratic senators like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and also maverick Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

If the Nevada delegates appear cemented in their positions. Hill said the Las Vegans may offer to help chambers in the swing states.

"That is certainly what we plan to do," he said. "We plan to reach out to sister organizations in other states. we have put together some pretty good information and we have talked to the U.S. Chamber about that."

The Las Vegas visitors were in the vanguard of a fly-in campaign the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is organizing. Business reps from 10 states are expected to arrive on Capitol Hill over the next two weeks for further lobbying.