"We affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast" in the election, the decision states. The justices also explicitly ruled that Franken is "entitled" under Minnesota law to receive the certificate of election as senator.
The judges stated that Coleman has "not shown that the trial court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion." They ruled unanimously for Franken, 5-0.
Subsequent reports note that Coleman has conceded. Once Franken is seated, the Democrats will hold 58 seats in the Senate, and two independents, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), often caucus with them on labor issues. It has long been speculated that this development would lead to a resurrection of efforts on behalf of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Expect a renewed wave of enthusiasm by the bill's supporters in the days to come. Still, once Franken is seated as the second Senator from Minnesota, EFCA in its current form faces an uphill battle. Many of the 60 votes possibly controlled by the Democrats have openly questioned the bill's current provisions -- Sens. Lincoln, Feinstein, and Bennet to name but a few. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), whose recent famous party switch put the Democrats this close to the prospect of cloture on any given measure, has consistently criticized EFCA as currently drafted. On April 28 of this year, he reiterated that stance:
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees [sic] Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
What this likely means is that the various parties pursuing alternative labor law reform measures will now step up those efforts. Among these underway:
- Senator Specter has previously laid out a number of possible elements he would explore, many of which we reviewed in our early 2009 white paper.
- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is said to have been pursuing "compromise" legislation providing for secret ballot elections within 21 days, and a greater emphasis on mediation in collective-bargaining.
- Sens. Feinstein and Specter have been said to have been discussing some form of mail-balloting as a selection method.
- The Committee For a Level Playing Field has proposed a comprehensive set of "principles for reform" incorporating stricter penalties, dates certain for elections, and union access to employees during campaigns, while preserving secret ballot elections and collective bargaining.
More coverage of today's news:
- "Meet the Dems' 60th Vote...Maybe" -- Atlanta Journal Constitution
- "After Eight Month Fight, Franken to be Seated" -- The Hill
- "Norm Coleman concedes Senate race to Al Franken" -- Politico
- "AFL-CIO: Franken Crucial for EFCA Passage" -- TPMDC