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The AFL-CIO hasn’t bought ads yet in support of card check, but instead has focused on promoting the proposal internally to its members, said Fred Azcarate, who heads the group’s pro-card-check efforts. But he said the federation may run ads in the coming weeks.

“We’re looking at all our options in terms of paid advertising,” he said.

Union and Democratic leaders, including presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, say the card-signing - or card-check - method is fairer than the secret ballot method because it’s a simpler, more direct approach for workers to decide whether they want to unionize. Unions argue they need the legislation to defend against anti-union companies and lawmakers, which they blame in part for decades of declining membership.

Opponents of the bill, including big businesses such as Wal-Mart, say Democrats are making a desperate attempt to pander to organized labor - one of the party’s most loyal backers. They add the proposal would deprive workers of their privacy and their right to vote.

The fight over the bill has underscored the historic alliances of labor with Democrats and business with Republicans. The GOP added a plank to its policy platform that demands workers retain the right to unionize through secret-ballot elections.

Former New York mayor and one-time Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani recently told The Washington Times that Democratic efforts to change the labor voting system would leave workers vulnerable to corruption and intimidation.

A card-check proposal passed the House last year 241-185, largely along party lines. It failed in the Senate 51-48 - nine votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to final passage.

Democrats say they will reintroduce the measure next year.