Labor rights groups received good news this week for their continuing battle to get pro-worker legislation passed in Congress. In one of his first acts as the junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken co-sponsored his first bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Franken was sworn into office on Tuesday following an eight-month recount.
Franken's support comes at a vital time. The battle over the EFCA has been quite a heated one this year. The EFCA, seen as one of the most important pieces of legislation in support of labor rights in a generation, was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in March. The bill would allow unions to form when a majority of workers sign cards -- a process dubbed "card check" -- as opposed to drawn-out National Labor Relations Board elections in which companies frequently subject workers to harassment and intimidation

Although the legislation is expected to sail through the House, the issue has focused on whether the bill will get the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster in the Senate. When the act was first introduced in 2003, it won approval by a wide margin in the House, but a Republican filibuster prevented it from coming up for a vote in the Senate. 

This time around, with Franken seated, Democrats have the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. Now labor groups are making plans to renew their push for the EFCA, and hope to see the measure come up for vote this year. Franken's addition, in particular, is important due to the waffling of a handful of conservative Democrats -- such as Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln -- on the act. The bill has also faced constant attack by corporate lobbies waging a heavily-funded PR campaign. 

Labor advocates hope that Franken's seating will also mean that Democrats will work to push the EFCA in its original form forward and not compromise by removing some of its most critical provisions.