Union ballot measure supporters raise $650,000
Published: September 22, 2010 at 7:34 am
Proposition 113 is a battle of powerful interests, pitting the business community against labor unions. But so far, only the supporters are spending any money.
A campaign committee supporting the anti-union ballot measure has raised more than $650,000, most of it from a national group called Save our Secret Ballot Campaign, which doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
No group has been formed to oppose the measure, which would amend the Arizona Constitution to require a secret ballot in union elections.
The immediate effects would be minimal — employers can already demand a secret-ballot election before a union is formed.
Rather, the proposition is primarily written as an attempt to pre-empt proposed federal legislation that would make it easier to form a union.
The federal legislation, known officially as the Employee Free Choice Act, is dubbed “card check” by opponents. It has stalled in Congress without the needed 60 votes to get out of the Senate.
EFCA would allow a majority of employees to create a union by signing a card. Unions say the measure is important because it would allow workers, not their employers, decide how to form a union.
Unions argue that employers have learned to exploit labor laws to thwart union organizing efforts. They say businesses have an advantage in union elections because management can intimidate employees by changing work schedules or threatening to fire them, while unions have to make their arguments off company property.
But business groups say they need a secret ballot to prevent unions from publicly intimidating workers and forcing them to sign on.
“Every time you have a vote about whether you want to be unionized, that ought to be by secret ballot,” said Tim Mooney, national coordinator for the Save Our Secret Ballot Campaign, an advocacy group that’s promoting the measure around the country. Voters in South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah will face similar questions in November.
Even without federal legislation, Proposition 113 would apply in a limited number of cases where labor laws are regulated by the state. Those include farm workers and government employees.
Both sides agree the measure is likely to end up in court. Opponents say federal legislation would pre-empt the state’s attempt to regulate unions. Supporters say the state may be allowed to enact a more-restrictive measure.
The measure was initially slated to be Proposition 108, and it also would have required a secret ballot for public elections — already required under state law. But a judge ruled the original language was unconstitutional because it asked voters more than one question.
Lawmakers met in special session last month to approve a fix to the language. It passed when a handful of Democrats joined all Republicans in support.
Opponents said Republicans are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and pander to the business community.
“This is much ado about nothing,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson. “It’s anti-union. It’s the majority party trying to play to their base.”