(March 30, 9:18 a.m.) Produce and business industry leaders praised Sen. Arlen Specter’s decision to vote against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Before the March 24 announcement, Specter was considered pivotal in the quest by bill supporters to achieve 60 votes in favor of the legislation, a threshold that prevents a filibuster. He had supported the legislation previously.

“The problems of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employees Free Choice legislation,” Specter said in a statement. “Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses.”

“What Sen. Specter did was an act of personal courage,” said Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers, Irvine, Calif.

Western Growers has said the so-called “card check” legislation would deny the secret ballot to workers at companies where unions are seeking to organize. At one point opponents of the legislation thought they might have to write off Specter as an ally.

“He proved us wrong and did what was right,” Nassif said.

The legislation appears dead for now, Nassif said, but it might resurface at any time.

“What our industry and all businesses in the United States who value the right to a secret ballot must keep in mind is that this will never go away,” he said. “The lesson for us is we have to be diligent.”

Specter clearly understood the flaws in the bill, Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said in a news release.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release the group would fight all efforts to pass the bill until it is removed from consideration in Congress, Donohue urged lawmakers to oppose efforts that would remove the private ballot, impose binding arbitration on small businesses or create one-sided remedies.

Beth Johnson, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., called the legislation a violation of employee rights in a news release and said it would impose costly arbitration on restaurants.