Opponents of Democrat-backed “card-check” legislation, which would abolish the right to a secret ballot in union elections, are pushing state constitutional amendments to guarantee workers’ rights.
The amendment effort, now going forward in 10 states, is necessary because Congress “seems bound and determined to deny workers the secret-ballot guarantee that they have under current law,” said former Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), chairman of Save Our Secret Ballot (SOS Ballot), the organization backing the effort.
Istook announced yesterday that the group has added five new target states — Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and North Dakota — to its list, which already included Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah.
SOS Ballot aims to take the issue to voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, asking approval for state constitutional amendments that would read: “The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed.”
The initiative effort is a response to proposed federal legislation, the Employee Freedom of Choice Act (EFCA), which Istook says is “grossly misnamed.” While longstanding federal law requires secret ballots when employees vote whether to unionize their workplace, EFCA permits union organizers to substitute signed pledge cards for secret ballots, a change that would expose workers to intimidation tactics, Istook said.
While some have questioned whether states could pre-emptively protect workers’ rights against the EFCA provisions, SOS Ballot sponsors are “fairly confident” that state constitutional amendments “would hold up” under federal court challenges, former South Dakota Attorney General Mark Meierhenry said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute is “prepared to defend this language against any court challenges,” said Istook, who is affiliated with the Heritage Foundation.
Istook noted that Democrats supporting EFCA “are trying to claim that they are not abolishing the right to a secret ballot,” but said such card-check sponsors would be “smoked out” if they filed suit to overturn state measures guaranteeing that right.
Democrats began pushing the card-check measure after they took control of Congress in the 2006 election. The House passed EFCA in March 2007 by a 241-185 vote, with only two Democrats voting “no,” but was stopped by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Now, however, Democrats control at least 58 Senate seats, and EFCA opponents fear that the Republican minority will not be able to block the measure should it come to a vote again. President Obama has voiced strong support for EFCA.