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Arizona Governor Calls Special Session to Promote Anti-Union Ballot Measure

Arizona continues to focus on catering to its rightwing ideological zealots rather than addressing its devastating revenue and economic crisis.   The most recent example is Arizona Governor Jan Brewer calling the legislature into special session to revise Proposition 108, a controversial ballot measure that was ruled unconstitutional in its original form by the State Supreme Court last week. 

Prop 108 is widely understood to be another tactic, like SB 1070, the state's anti-immigrant law, to amplify the reactionary political climate in the state leading up to the November election.  Promoted by Brewer and congressional candidate Sydney Hay at the behest of the anti-union Save Our Secret Ballot Coalition (SOS Ballot), the measure sought to affirm the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot both in elections for public office and in union representation decisions.  In its August 4 ruling, the court concurred with a lower court ruling on July 1 that the proposed measure violates the state constitution's requirement that amendments put to voter referendum deal with just one subject.  On Tuesday, the legislature approved new language proposed by the governor, which now focuses solely on how workers choose union representation. 

SOS Ballot and other front groups have been funded by organizations like the Goldwater Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote state constitutional amendments that purport to block one of the central provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, introduced in Congress last year:  specifically, the card-check option for certifying workers' choice to form a union.  In most states where these measures have been proposed, they have been declared unfit to be placed on the ballot.  And even union opponents, including the attorney representing SOS Ballot, acknowledge that EFCA would preempt the state law in private sector labor matters. 

However, in addition to its symbolic value, Prop 108 would block efforts to establish card-check for public sector workers.  That effect is not merely collateral or ironic – it goes against empirical evidence demonstrating the need for a card-check option for all workers.  In-depth studies of employer and union tactics in organizing campaigns show that so-called "secret ballot" elections under the National Labor Relations Act are anything but secret:  employers typically use their sway over employees in the workplace so that there are no surprises in the union vote. 

Dr. Kate Bronfebrenner of Cornell University has begun publishing results of the most comprehensive survey of union organizing campaigns ever conducted.  The study shows that private-sector employers routinely interrogate employees at work in the weeks leading up to union elections:  in two-thirds (66%) of private-sector organizing drives, workers are forced to attend one-on-one meetings with their supervisors on at least a weekly basis; in 63% of organizing drives, supervisors use such meetings to interrogate workers about their union preference, and in most cases (54%) supervisors threaten employees into opposing the union. 

In contrast, in states with public sector labor relations laws (which often include a card-check certification option), employees are only subjected to supervisor one-on-one meetings in 26% of organizing drives (compared to 77% in the private sector) – almost never (2%) on a weekly basis – and interrogation and intimidation in such meetings are far less common (20% and 15%).  Furthermore, the evidence suggests that fears of coercion by unions under card-check are unfounded:  a four-state survey of over 1,300 public sector card-check cases found only five allegations of union misconduct or coercion and only one confirmed case. 

UPDATE: Pro-labor legislators offered several amendments to the ballot measure to expose the anti-worker agenda behind it.  One amendment would have given workers the right to have a co-worker present during meetings with their supervisors in order to curb the potential for such one-on-one meetings to be used for interrogation and intimidation.  Rep. Daniel Patterson proposed amendments requiring secret ballot elections for corporate boards of directors and exempting public safety officers from the card-check prohibition; when those failed, he proposed an amendment renaming the ballot measure "The Arizona Anti-Worker Amendment."  In the Senate, legislators introduced a bill to deny legislators per diem payments for the special session -- which would save the state over $12,000.  That bill was defeated as well.