Labor representatives watching the returns from AFL-CIO headquarters put down their beer and wine to let out a cheer at news that North Carolina state senator Kay HaganKay HaganGOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate MORE, the Democratic challenger, would unseat Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the Republican incumbent. If the projection proves correct, it moves the unions a vote closer to a key priority next session: the Employee Free Choice Act.

That measure is intended to make it easier for unions to organize workers, and the labor movement looks to it as a way to reverse the trend of declining union membership. It would allow workers to join a union by signing a petition, ending the current requirement that secret ballots be cast. Union officials say companies make it difficult to hold votes for union membership.

The bill went down in defeat in the Senate in 2007 when supporters fell nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster. As Barack ObamaBarack ObamaMarkos Moulitsas: Kill the filibuster David Webb: Act like winners Japanese PM Abe won't apologize at Pearl Harbor MORE and John McCainJohn McCainRepublicans tie Trump's Defense pick to funding fight Lawmakers haggle over funding bill as shutdown nears Markos Moulitsas: Kill the filibuster MORE fought it out across the county, business and labor battled over the bill, also referred to as