(Clint Bolick) – Sometimes politicians don’t recognize a tsunami even when it hits them.
Voters in four states—Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, and South Carolina—voted in the last election to amend their constitutions to protect the right to secret ballots in union organizing elections. The results were resounding, with approval rates ranging from 60 to 86 percent.
The measures were designed to forestall “card-check”—union-backed federal legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot in favor of a system under which unions could be formed merely by a majority of workers signing cards. Card-check would invite coercion in forming unions and reverse the decades-long trend against private-sector unionization.
The ballot measures upped the political ante for card-check legislation, and the Empire is striking back with a vengeance.
National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Eric G. Moskowitz wrote the attorneys general in all four states demanding that they decline to enforce the secret ballot protections, or NLRB will sue them. So far the attorneys general are united in their response: bring it on.
This litigation will mark a battle royale over federalism. NLRB will argue that federal law preempts the state measures. States will respond that they have the power to protect rights recognized under both the federal and state constitutions. The outcome, sure to be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court, will say much about the extent of federal power.
The Goldwater Institute drafted Save Our Secret Ballot and will help defend the measures at every turn. In the meantime, the Obama Administration has revealed for all to see where it comes down on a key issue of basic fairness: on the side of its union allies against the rights of American workers.
(Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.)