December 29, 2008 | 8:40pm
Arizona is poised to take center stage in the debate over a proposed national law
that would ban workers from voting for or against labor unions in secret ballot elections.
The group, fronted by a Republican former Congressman from Oklahoma, is pushing for state-by-state constitutional amendments that would essentially require secret ballots to be used to form or join a union at a business. The effort is kicking off in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah.
Clint Bolick of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute
, a conservative think-tank that recently thumped
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office, is one of the board members for Save Our Secret Ballots and wrote the proposed language for the constitutional amendment. It's just two sentences -- the first, short and innocuous, and the second, a lawyer's dream:
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 group is launching a citizens initiative to put the above language before Arizona voters in the 2010 election. If voters approve it, the law will become embedded in the state's constitution.
On its Web site, Save Our Secret Ballots admits it expects a legal challenge if the amendment is ever enacted in Arizona or another state, especially since it is meant to conflict with the proposed federal law mentioned above.
The conservatives are upset at what they see as a power grab by the unions, and in this case their vision seems clear. The ironically named "Employee Free Choice Act" is being pushed with no apologies by the labor unions, which have seen falling membership in recent decades and need a boost. The bill would allow unions to get entrenched at a business merely by getting a majority of employees to sign a card over a period of time. Union supporters argue that a business can monopolize employees' time with brainwashing anti-union meetings or videos before an election, so elections must be eliminated.
Unfortunately, the so-called "card check" process can also be manipulated. And unions, despite their illustrious past in carving out workers' rights, sometimes play dirty
Though a secret ballot election isn't perfect, there is no better way to vote on something if you want to reveal the voters' true feelings.
The early timing of the anti-union group's announcement is no doubt meant to influence lawmakers in Washington D.C. The threat of a massive constitution-changing effort will add to the buzz of criticism
surrounding the "Employee Free Choice Act."
If unions can't make a better case for eliminating ballot elections, the proposed Act may go down in flames in the U.S. Senate like it did last year, and the arduous state initiative process can be avoided. -- Ray Stern