By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Democrats moved today to introduce the Employee Free Choice Act, aimed at making it easier to start a union—and condemned as a way for unions to eliminate the secret ballot. The long-expected debate took a quick and nasty turn on the first day in the Senate when hecklers, some said to be from unions, booed the GOP foe at a hearing on the legislation.
Sen. Tom Harkin, who plans to introduce the legislation, held a hearing to discuss it. His remarks, which generally praised unions, were met with applause from the audience. Republican members thought that he should have quieted the crowd, but he said he would let supporters express themselves. But when Sen. Lamar Alexander dubbed the bill the "Employee NO Free Choice Act," the boos rolled in and Harkin, to some laughs, said that, while he likes expression, he didn't want to hear any boos or hisses.
Afterward, GOP aides told Whispers that they are extremely angry that Alexander was booed and that Harkin didn't try harder to quiet the legislation's supporters. "This is no way to treat a fellow senator or to deal with committee decorum," said one aide. Another suggested that it would fuel the division over the legislation.
In this audio from the hearing, boos can clearly be heard as Alexander talks. Harkin's admonishments also are audible.