A State-Level Counter to Card Check

As disappointing as the 2005 Kelo v. New London ruling was for supporters of strong property rights, the ensuing months saw a healthy — and heartening — backlash at the state level, as lawmakers in several states, responding to contituent outrage, enacted legislative curbs on eminent domain. Now it would be good to see a similar state-level reaction to organized labor’s push to corral more workers into unions by undermining the secret ballot process in organizing elections.

Today, soon after the pro-union advocacy group American Rights at Work launched a major ad campaign in favor of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would allow unions to easily circumvent secret ballot elections in organizing drives, former Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) announced a new state-level effort to enshrine secret ballots in all elections — including union elections — in state constitutions.

Istook, who is now at the Heritage Foundation, where he made the announcement, is Chairman of Save our Secret Ballot, which is launching its state efforts in five states — Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, and Utah — with other states to follow. He noted that, contrary to what many people might think, secret ballots are not protected in the U.S. Constitution — but state constitutions can expand on those rights protected at the federal level. The proposed amendment reads:

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.

Istook also pointed out the hypocrisy of EFCA sponsor Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who in 2001, along with several of his colleagues, wrote to Mexican government officials urging them to protect Mexican workers’ rights to a secret ballot, because, they said in the letter:

[W]e feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necesary to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.

As a questioner noted, EFCA has other provisions that are also very bad: binding arbitration, whereby a federally appointed arbitrator imposes a contract if union and management have not reached a deal after 120 days, and increased “unfair labor practice” penalties for employers, which gives unions another club with which to browbeat companies targeted for unionization.

Istook responded that while opposing those provisions is also important, they are, relative to card check, a secondary priority for Big Labor — which, if it would settle on enactment of a card check-free EFCA-lite, would only do so to come back later in order to get the rest of its desired package.

Here’s hoping Istook’s efforts succeed.

For more on card check, see here and here.