Back in April, the Arizona legislature passed its controversial immigration law, SB-1070, that has brought the state a deserved amount of scorn. But that is not the only pernicious work being undertaken by the Arizona state government.
This week, Republicans in the Arizona legislature are scrambling to repair the language of an anti-union ballot initiative that they hope to put before voters in November, after a judge tossed out their previous version. The initiative is meant to pre-but passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — which would grant workers the right to immediate union recognition if a majority sign cards indicating that they support the union — by outlawing unionization not done by “secret ballot.”
But the initiative’s proponents tried to bury their intent by applying their secret ballot standard to all elections, including those for federal and state political offices. A Superior Court Judge was not amused by the move, which violated “a prohibition against constitutional amendments dealing with more than one issue”:
Courts generally have said the purpose of that ban is to prevent “logrolling,’’ where voters who want one provision are essentially compelled to approve something else they do not want. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig said the legal problems appear to go beyond that. He said elections for public office already are by secret ballot. And Oberbillig questioned whether that provision wasn’t included as an inducement to get voters to approve the more controversial union measure.
The Arizona GOP is now back at work, drafting a version of the language that it feels will pass a judge’s muster.
But this whole effort is silly for a couple of reasons. The first is that the states are usually not allowed to circumvent a process that has been explicitly laid out by the federal government. Even the attorney representing those pushing the initiative “acknowledged that the provisions of federal law generally preempt state regulations and even constitutional provisions.”
The second is that workers are already allowed to form unions without a formal election, and have been doing so without controversy for years. In fact, since 2003, more than half a million workers have been organized by majority sign-up, including those at Cingular Wireless, Dow Jones, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Kaiser Permanente. The only catch is that, in order for this process to proceed, the employer has to give its okay. Even if a vast majority of workers indicate that they want to join a union, the employer can demand an election, giving itself ample time to intimidate or even fire pro-union workers.
A joint study by Rutgers University, Cornell University, and the Universities of Oregon and Illinois, which examined data from union campaigns in four states, shows that “the majority sign-up provision was used extensively without hint of union or employer abuse,” and that “contrary to business claims…there was not a single confirmed incident of union misconduct.”
Yesterday, President Barack Obama said that “we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.” It’d be really great if that were so, Arizona’s suspect attempt to nullify it notwithstanding.