On his first day in office, July 7, Minnesota’s new Democratic senator, Al Franken, showed whose side he is on.

He signed on to his first bill, the Employee Free Choice Act and, in so doing, raised the possibility that he could be the 60th vote needed to kill a planned Republican filibuster designed to crush the right of workers to a voice at their workplace. Senate supporters of the bill had no intention of moving forward on it until Franken was seated.

Franken was the target of a television attack ad campaign when he ran against the then-incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. The Chamber of Commerce, which paid for the ads against Franken, did so on the basis of the fact that his election would make it more likely that the Employee Free Choice Act would become law.

“They were going after him more than anyone,” said Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Labor Federation. “He didn’t back down then and he won’t back down now.”

Franken said repeatedly during his campaign that passing the Employee Free Choice Act was the way to strengthen the middle class because it would give more workers the opportunity to bargain collectively to improve wages and benefits.

Franken made his announcement about signing on as a co-sponsor of the bill at a party in his honor at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington.

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