Voters in four Republican-dominated states passed measures Nov. 2 to ban the “card check” method of unionizing. The anti-union ballot measures were supported by 60 percent of voters in Arizona and Utah, 76 percent in South Dakota, and 86 percent in South Carolina.
But the measures may be struck down in the courts, because they encroach on rights protected by a federal law, the National Labor Relations Act.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized there are lawful means of union recognition other than elections,” William Lurye, associate general counsel at the national AFL-CIO, told the Labor Press.
As far back as the 1930s, private sector employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act have been allowed to recognize and bargain with a union when a majority of employees signs union authorization cards — without the union having to show majority support a second time through a workplace election. But employers may also insist on that election before recognizing a union. In other words, it’s the employer’s choice which method employees may use to show majority support for union representation.
Organized labor’s top priority labor law reform legislation — the Employee Free Choice Act — would give that choice to the employees. The bill passed the U.S. House in 2007, but failed to get enough votes in the Senate to forestall a Republican filibuster. The bill was reintroduced last year, but has not gotten a vote in the Democratic-led Congress that will end in January.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has waged an intensive campaign against it, and the state ballot measures are part of that campaign. Anti-union groups are planning similar measures on the 2012 ballot in California, Florida, Mississippi, and Ohio.