PHOENIX - With Washington silent for now on legislation
championed by unions, the debate is playing out instead in the states.
With a measure approved Wednesday by its Republican-controlled
Legislature, Arizona became the fourth state that will ask voters this
year to undercut proposed federal legislation aimed at making it easier
for workers to unionize. Arizona voters will decide in November whether
the state constitution should require a secret ballot for workers
deciding whether to create a union; South Carolina, South Dakota and
Utah residents will be asked similar questions.
If passed, the secret ballot initiatives would have little immediate
effect because federal law already allows employers to require a secret
Rather, the ballot measures are an attempt to pre-emptively undermine
the proposed federal law known officially as the Employee Free Choice
Act - dubbed "card check" by opponents.
EFCA would allow a majority of employees to create a union by signing
a card. Unions say workers, not their employers, should get to decide
how to form a union.
Businesses have the advantage in a union election because management
has unfettered access to employees and can intimidate them by changing
work schedules and assignments or threatening to fire them, said Bill
Samuel, government affairs director for the AFL-CIO.
Labor laws are outdated, and employers have learned to exploit them to thwart union organizing efforts, he said.
"Employers have turned it into such an adversarial process," Samuel
said. "It's no longer both sides standing up before a crowd and making
Businesses say expansion of the public card-signing process would allow labor organizers to pressure workers into joining.
"You're denying them the privacy and security of the private ballot,"
said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Work Force Freedom
Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The issue has stalled on Capitol Hill, but businesses worry
congressional Democrats will bring it up in a lame duck session after
the midterm elections.
It's not clear whether the federal law would trump the states' secret
ballot guarantees, and both sides agree the matter is likely to end up