A new Arizona law that limits the ability of labor unions to harass employers with picketing and defamation has drawn a federal complaint by two local unions.
The United Food and Commerical Workers Local 99 and the Local Union No. 469 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada claim the law violates their constitutional rights and demand its immediate repeal. (See below for complaint.) The law's quite a blow to unions. Among its provisions: It bans them from picketing strictly to coerce an employer into joining the union, forces unions to stop collecting dues the same day a member revokes his or her union membership, and makes it easier for employers who claim they've been defamed by a union to sue.
In a February article in the Capitol Times about SB1363, the bill that led to the law, a union supporter painted the law as a weapon of retaliation by conservative lawmakers who didn't like the way the the UFCW 99 treated Bashas' during a 2007 labor dispute.
As our January 24, 2008 feature article about that dispute exposed, the UFCW 99 ran what was essentially a bald-faced smear campaign against Bashas'. Among other tactics, the union used a front organization to accuse the grocery-store chain of racism and selling expired baby food.
Whether the unions deserved this law because of their poor sportsmanship, we can't say. Clearly, Arizona lawmakers are on an anti-union bent aimed at appealing to fellow right-wingers, making the rank politics of a law like this impossible to ignore. Plus, we're already concerned about the anti-defamation part of the law, because it might deter unions with more scruples than the UFCW 99 from publishing credible, honest information about the bad practices of an employer.
Arizona's anti-union sentiment made national headlines recently because of a voter-approved law that guarantees secret-ballot elections for a company to get unionized, and because of the federal complaint against it by the National Labor Relations Board.
It may not be a right-to-work state, but no one can deny that ever-important right to sue.