Under the guise of protecting the secret ballot, right-wing groups have placed anti-union measures on the ballots of four states – Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah – that would outlaw majority sign-up as a means for union recognition. These groups are hoping to spike the Employee Free Choice Act, the legislation which would remove many of the obstacles to workers exercising their right to join a union.
Says South Dakota Federation of Labor President Mark Anderson in a statement from the "No on Amendment K" campaign:
The so-called ‘secret ballot’ amendment was written to trap voters in to supporting a measure designed to undermine workers’ rights to form unions. Only 6.6 percent of South Dakota are represented by a union ... Still the supporters of Amendment K are asking voters to help them make it harder for workers to form unions and bargain for better wages.
The initiatives specify that all elections, including ones in the workplace, be done by secret ballot. But as the editorial board of the Salt Lake City Tribune writes, in opposition to Amendment A:
Federal law already provides the secret ballot for union organizing elections [and] the state constitution already provides ... that "all elections shall be by secret ballot."
The Employee Free Choice Act does not eliminate the secret ballot, but gives employees the option of using majority sign-up when forming a union. Currently employers decide whether workers must use a secret ballot or not, even if a strong majority signs authorization cards.
The act is deadlocked in Congress, leading Arizona AFL-CIO Executive Director Rebekah Friend to say about her state’s Proposition 113:
This is a bill against a bill that hasn’t been passed.
Another concern is that the measures, as an attempt to pre-empt federal labor law, could entangle states in costly lawsuits.
If passed, Amendment K is headed to court. Taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for an expensive lawsuit. Supporters made the cynical calculation to put the taxpayers in the middle of their fight, and stick them with the bill.
The ballot initiatives are being spearheaded by a Las Vegas-based anti-union group, Save Our Secret Ballot, along with corporate front groups like Americans for Prosperity, which has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign for TV and radio ads.
Friend says the measure is not the result of a grassroots movement:
The money for this campaign is coming almost fully from out-of-state sources.
Measure backers are using misleading language to camouflage their intentions.
Says Charleston, S.C., IBEW Local 776 Business Manager Charles Moore:
All it talks about is protecting the secret ballot, which a lot of voters thinks means their vote in the ballot booth. It’s very deceptive
Unions in all four states are running grassroots campaigns to let union members know what these anti-EFCA initiatives are really about.
Salt Lake City IBEW Local 354 Business Manager Richard Kingery says some of the strongest opponents of Amendment A are construction contractors that have long-term relationships with unions, like the National Electrical Contractors Association.
These are companies that work well with unions and are concerned that Amendment A will be disruptive and a waste of time and money.
Click here for more information about the No on K campaign in South Dakota.
Click here for more information on Proposition 113 in Arizona.
Union members across the country are gearing up for the 2010 midterm elections. Check out this video of IBEW Local 22 members in Omaha reaching out to their fellow IBEW members in person, by phone and through direct work with the candidates.