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Latest News - October 2010

October 21, 2010
Card Checkmate
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Voters in four states head to the polls to preserve honest union elections.

Big Labor's dream to end secret ballots in union organizing elections has faded in the 111th Congress, but now the battle turns to the states. Citizens in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah will vote on November 2 on ballot initiatives to block union "card check" elections in their states.

Card check laws are designed to replace elections with a system allowing a union to organize a work site if more than half of the employees sign a card approving the union. With less than 7.5% of private workers now wearing the union label, labor chiefs view card check as a way to give them a big new edge over management.

Workers often vote differently in private than they do in public. Unions typically wait until they have cards from more than 50% of employees before seeking to organize a work site or business. Management can then request a secret vote under current law. And in about one third of the cases in which secret ballot organizing elections are then held, unions fail to get a majority, according to the National Right to Work Foundation. Card check exposes workers and their families to peer pressure and union intimidation.

The four "save our secret ballot" initiatives on the November ballot, as they are called, would provide constitutional protection for secret ballot elections before a union is certified. The South Dakota proposal, for example, would amend the state constitution by stating that in union elections "the fundamental right of the individual to vote by secret ballot is guaranteed."

These measures have the added benefit of helping to keep businesses and jobs in these states. Private employment grew 3.7% in states with right-to-work laws in the last decade compared to a decline of 2.8% in states that have more favorable organizing laws, according to data from the National Right to Work Foundation. Think about the auto industry job losses in Michigan versus the auto job gains in Texas or Mississippi.

These state initiatives are a counterpoint to Big Labor's card check agenda in state capitals. Over the past decade or so, at least 10 states have passed card check measures for state and local public employees. In 2007, legislatures in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Oregon enacted card check laws that were signed by Democratic governors. In 2009 and 2010, similar bills were introduced in about a dozen other states. Victory for the "save our secret ballot" initiatives in November would slow the state card check campaign and inspire other states to build similar worker safeguards.

As for a national law, Democrats in Congress may make one last push in a lame duck session. They're under heavy union pressure to hold a vote, and their chief Senate spear carrier, Iowa's Tom Harkin, has said he wants to bring it to the floor. A sweep in favor of secret ballot protections in all four states in two weeks would send a message that Americans want to preserve their right to vote against a union without the risk of being ostracized—or worse.



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