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Latest News - August 2010

August 11, 2010
Arizona anti-union measure nears Nov. 2 ballot
Source: The Arizona Republic
By: Mary Jo Pitzl

Lawmakers on Tuesday advanced an anti-union measure toward the Nov. 2 ballot with little debate, even as the labor unions the measure is aimed at complain that it is a waste of time and effort.

A final vote is scheduled for this morning on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1001. It would ask voters whether to guarantee the right to a secret ballot for union-organizing elections.

The business-backed measure is expected to pass with Republican-only votes.

Democrats have echoed labor's concerns but have offered little argument as the measure has zipped through a hastily called special session.

The resolution would take effect only if Congress were to approve the Employee Free Choice Act, which offers an alternative, easier way to conduct workplace-organizing efforts. The act has stalled in Congress, although opponents fear it could be revived in a lame-duck session this fall.

"I'm not about to sit around and wait for the Congress," said Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, reflecting why he and many of his GOP colleagues feel the measure is needed now.

But Rebekah Friend, executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO, said the ballot measure would have no practical effect, other than to trigger a lawsuit. Labor argues the measure pre-empts federal authority over labor issues.

"They're making a law that pre-empts a law that hasn't even passed," Friend said.

At issue is how unions organize. Currently, if a majority of workers signs a petition in support of unionization, management can either accept that decision or call for an election, where ballots are cast in secret.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, the two-step process would be reduced to one: A majority of signatures would trigger creation of a union.

Business groups have argued that the signature-collection effort opens employees to coercion by co-workers; therefore, a secret-ballot election is the best way to allow an unfettered vote.

But labor groups counter that once an election is called, workers could be intimidated by management into voting against a collective-bargaining unit. Besides, argued Friend, workers could still insist on a secret-ballot election. The difference is that election would be called by the workers, not management.

If the Legislature votes as expected, the measure goes to the Secretary of State's Office for placement on the ballot.

The Save Our Secret Ballot committee, formed in late 2008, already has spent $216,000 in support of the measure, according to public records. Most of its funding has come from Save Our Secret Ballot Inc., a national group backed by conservative lawmakers and think tanks, such as the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, as well as business interests.

Records in the Secretary of State's Office show no group has formed a committee to campaign against the measure.

 

 


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