In a victory for labor unions, the House has passed a bill that would make it easier for them to organize nonunion companies. The bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, was approved on March 1 by a 241-135 vote. But the margin wasn't as wide as the bill's supporters had hoped--it falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a threatened presidential veto.

The legislation has been a top priority for organized labor and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney hailed the vote as "a momentous turning point in the growing movement to restore our nation's middle-class." 

But the bill has been strongly opposed by industry groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Associated Builders & Contractors, which refer to the measure as "card check bill," because it lets workers sign a card to indicate their desire to join a union. ABC President and CEO Kirk Pickerel said, "This is a transparent and shameless attempt by the labor unions to strong-arm nonunion members into joining their ranks in order to increase their declining membership and fill their coffers with forced union dues."

Still to come is action in the Senate, where a companion bill to the House-passed measure hadn't been introduced as of Feb. 28.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a statement on Feb. 28 stating that President Bush would veto the bill if it gets to his desk. Vice President Dick Cheney had promised the same two weeks earlier.

The House vote split generally along party lines. Only 13 Republicans voted for the bill and just two Democrats voted against it.