(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 21) The decision by six Democratic senators to take the controversial “card-check” provision out of the Employee Free Choice Act is a ploy to move the bill through the Senate, and the United Fresh Produce Association, for one, isn’t about to ease off its opposition to the legislation, said one high-ranking official with United Fresh.

“Rumors have been flying for days,” said Kam Quarles, vice president for government relations and legislative affairs for Washington D.C.-based United Fresh. “Once they got (Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.) seated, we thought things would start to move. The shoe’s starting to drop.”

Quarles said United Fresh has been opposed to the base bill from the beginning, and it wouldn’t be backing off now.

“They want to move something in the Senate,” he said. “This is sort of card-check light. Our guard is absolutely still up. We still strongly oppose the bill.”

Six senators — Tom Harkin D-Iowa, Sherrod Brown D-Ohio, Thomas Carper D-Del., Mark Pryor D-Ark., Charles Schumer D-N.Y. and Arlen Specter D-Penn. — decided to remove the card check provision to secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes. The provision requires companies to recognize unions when a majority of workers sign cards in favor of organization. Currently, unions can hold secret-ballot elections.

The revised bill, however, mandates that elections be held 10 days after 30% of employees signed cards in favor of representation. Union campaigns typically last two months.

“Quicker elections are a synonym for less information for employees,” Quarles said. “And, there’s still mandatory arbitration, which is forced contact between employers and employees.”

Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., said mandatory arbitration — and increased monetary penalties for employees’ violations of labor laws — was an even more important issue to the produce industry than card check.

“This is a horrible bill that someone is trying to make less horrible,” Nassif said July 21. “We can take little joy in seeing the end of card check. It was an important part of what we wanted, but not the most important part.”

Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Fresno, also agreed that it’s too early to declare victory over card check.

“This is good news for employees’ rights in particular and for all who support the secret ballot in general, but the issue is far from over,” Bedwell said July 21.

Bedwell said he thought organized labor had not been successful in the recent past at communicating value to workers.

“We must continue to show diligence in protecting workers’ rights and the fundamentals of our democracy,” he said.

Quarles also said the card check provision could be reinserted into the bill in conference committee between the House and Senate.

“The final chapter has not been written in any way on this,” Quarles said.

Labor bill lacks card-check provision for now