Home / Capitol Insiders / Lawmakers send anti-union measure to November ballot – Day 3

Lawmakers send anti-union measure to November ballot – Day 3

Lawmakers have sent a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would guarantee workers the right to a secret vote when they decide whether to unionize.

The vote, which took place Aug. 11, was the culmination of a three-day special session convened after the courts threw a similar proposal off the ballot.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate gave final approval of SCR1001 largely along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor.

However, one Democrat in each chamber – Sen. Amanda Aguirre and Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, both from Yuma – supported the measure.

The Senate approved the legislation by an 18-11 vote, while it cleared the House 36-19.

The Legislative Council later adopted an analysis of the proposal; the analysis, submitted to the Secretary of State, will be part of the publicity pamphlet about proposals that will appear on the November ballot.

Democrats called the special session a waste of time and a symbol of misplaced priorities, a theme they pursued throughout the brief session.

“I wish I could say that these three days are productive,” said Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Democrat from Phoenix. “In the end, this really is not needed. The likelihood that ‘card check’ will pass (in Congress) is zilch to none.”

The ballot measure, which was pushed by business groups, would amend Arizona’s constitution in an attempt to stave off Congressional legislation that would allow union leaders to organize workers if a majority of them sign authorization forms.

Currently, employers are not bound to recognize a card-check petition and can require a vote by secret ballot. Republicans and pro-business groups believe a secret ballot shields employees from being coerced into joining a union.

But the union group Arizona AFL-CIO called the state referral an assault on workers’ rights. It is already contemplating another legal challenge.

The referral “(safeguards) the status quo that benefits corporations resisting unionization,” the group said.
Rebekah Friend, the group’s executive director, said they would to go court if voters approve the referral in November.

Clint Bolick, director of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, testified before a House committee that the secret ballot law would most likely end up in court, but said he believes it would withstand a challenge.

Bolick also said that despite Congress’ lack of progress on card check legislation, it is important to pass the secret ballot measure because President Obama may attempt to push card check provisions through administrative rules changes.

Democrats attacked GOP leaders and Gov. Jan Brewer for failing to use the special session to examine the events that led to three convicted murders escaping last month from a private prison in Kingman. One of the prisoners is still on the run and is suspected of murdering two people in New Mexico.

House Minority Whip Rep. Chad Campbell said he wanted Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan at the Legislature so he could grill him about what happened and why.

But Republicans defended the special session and said protecting secret balloting was important for Arizona workers.

“We are under attack from our own federal government,” said House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, a Republican from Paulden.

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray said if anyone were to be blamed, it was the unions who chose to go to court this late in the referendum process.

“Because they are the ones that put us here,” he said.
Sen. Ron Gould, a Lake Havasu Republican, said his grandfather was beat up by “union thugs” – because he wouldn’t join the union – and “management thugs” so he wouldn’t join it.

“(That’s) why a secret ballot is so important,” Gould said. “That secret ballot protects that employee from both management and from big labor.”

The Legislature passed a similar referral last year, but the courts ruled that it violated the state constitution’s requirement that a ballot measure be limited to only one subject. That proposal would have guaranteed secret-ballot votes for both public and union elections.

The Republican-led Legislature fixed the wording by dropping the part about public office elections.

Brewer called the ninth special session this term amid a very busy primary campaign, and many lawmakers from both parties were not thrilled to spend time at the Capitol.

Still, almost everyone showed up to attend the session.
In any case, legislative leaders planned a quick session – and got one.

But legal questions hounded the legislation.
Some union representatives had expressed fear during committee hearings that the legislation would have unintended consequences.

The fear can be boiled down to this: The language could be interpreted to mean that it creates a right to an election to form a union. And this could happen at the time when a new contract between a union and an employer is being negotiated.

“A member could say, ‘You know, it says that I have a right that is guaranteed to me by statute… I never voted. You know what, I want one’,” said Levi Bolton of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

Even some Republicans sought a written clarification from the Legislature’s counsel.

Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican, took pains to emphasize that he’s fine with the language, but he wanted an assurance that it doesn’t create a right to an election to form a union.

Gray, the majority leader, said: “Under this, we wouldn’t want someone to say, ‘I’m a new member of this employment facility and I never voted on this union… I, under this new constitution, demand that we have an election’.”

But staff said the ballot referral doesn’t create a right to an election, but a right to a secret ballot if an election were required or permitted to form a union.

The Legislative Council later issued a memo saying existing union-employer contracts won’t be impacted by the proposal, and that the right to a secret ballot only arises when local law authorizes or requires an election to form a union.

Jeremy Duda and Jim Small contributed to this report

SCR1001: “The right to vote by secret ballot for employee representation is fundamental and shall be guaranteed where local, state or federal law permits or requires elections, designations or authorizations for employee representation.”

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