The U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday passed H.R. 800, dubbed "The Employee Free Choice Act (HR 800)," which would replace the current election by private ballot supervised by the National Labor Relations Board with a new system under which employees would be allowed to simply sign a card in the presence of others, including co-workers, employers and union organizers.

The vote, almost exclusively along party lines, was 241 to 185, with 13 Republicans siding with Democrats and only two Democrats voting against the measure.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) lambasted the House in a statement from president and CEO Kirk Pickerel. "We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. House of Representatives has decided that politics is more important than the privacy rights of American workers by passing this misguided and ill-conceived measure," said Pickerel. "Under this legislation, the right of workers to participate in a secret-ballot election in deciding whether to join a union would be revoked. This is a transparent and shameless attempt by the labor unions to strong-arm non-union members into joining their ranks in order to increase their declining membership and fill their coffers with forced union dues."

Congressional analysts believe the legislation will run into opposition from Republicans in the Senate, where it could be filibustered and left to die. The bill also could face a veto from President George W. Bush, although the White House has not taken a position on the legislation.