Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 11, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Secret Ballots for Unionizing


  • The pros and cons of a ballot measure, approved by state lawmakers in special session, that attempts to block proposed federal legislation regarding the formation of labor unions.
Guests:
  • Clint Bolick
  • Stan Lubin - Attorney, AFL/CIO
Category: Government

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas:
The state legislature wrapped up a special session today to get a measure dealing with unions back on the ballot. After a judge threw the first measure out saying it was illegal. The measure approved today is aimed at blocking a proposed federal law that would make it easier to form a union by having a majority of workers sign a petition. That measure has not been approved by Congress. The Arizona ballot measure seeks to preserve the right to a secret ballot when voting on unionization. Here theory discuss the measure are Clint Bolick, for the secret ballot proposition, and Stan Lubin, an attorney for the AFL/CIO, who opposes the measure. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming on the "Horizon" show tonight. Clint, we'll start with you, since it's a measure -- you have come up with this idea, why preempt, if the federal government has not passed this, what's the rush to have the statement government in essential session, the legislature in special session?

Clint Bolick:
Of course would it have been on the ballot if the union not gone to court at the 11th hour to strip it from our November ballot. So that's why the special session was necessary. But there's two reasons to have it on the ballot this November. First of all, President Obama has -- who is basically hostage to the unions on this issue, has said that he continues to make this a top legislative priority, the democrats know that their numbers are probably waning in the senate, and they're going to try to push this through in a lame duck session. Obama said fit doesn't happen then, he is going to do it by bureaucratic -- by regulation. So we need to have this in our constitution to protect the right to secret ballot.

Richard Ruelas:
And for the union's -- how often is this type of measure used? We're talking about instead of a vote among workers to unionize, they hand out essentially cards to get a majority of workers. How often is that procedure used?

Stan Lubin:
The cards are used in almost every single organizing campaign and have been for 75 years. Right now the law allows the majority recognition by card check. It's not going to be new. What will be new, if the employee free choice act passes, it will change it from allows the employer to decide whether there will be an election, to allow the union and the employees to make that choice. That's what the freedom -- the free choice act does. It does not change it -- the right to an election is there, the right to a card check has always been there. It has been in the act since 1935. That will not change.

Richard Rulas:
But this will now make it so that if workers get a majority to turn in cards saying we want a union, it becomes a union rather than right now the --

Stan Lubin:
Right now the employer can block it by saying no. It's the employer's choice now. We're saying it should be the employees' choice.

Clint Bolick:
But employeeless not have a choice.

Stan Lubin:
Yes, they will.

Clint Bolick:
To have a secret ballot. If they -- this will be eliminated if they get 50% of the cards. Everyone knows what happens in these situations. You have either the employer or the employee exercising coercion. Lots of instances you have majority of cards that are signed, but then when the workers go into the secret ballot, they turn down the union. And that's because they are in that setting and that setting alone exercise can their free choice.

Richard Ruelas:
Are there going to be some times that -- even with the secret ballot, does it -- isn't there pressure from the bosses to vote not to unionize?

Clint Bolick:
Of course. But what do you in the secrecy of the voting booth is your business. And you can express yourself fully. That's why over a dozen Democratic members of Congress, including representative George Mitchell, a huge union advocate, wrote to the government of Mexico when they were going to do away with the secret ballot in union elections, and they said, we need to have the right to secret ballot, the same principle applies here in the United States.

Stan Lubin:
The coercion issue is a phony issue. In the 75 years that we've had this law in place, there are less than 40 or 50 times when elections have been set aside because the union aggression or overstatement or pushing people around, probably 50,000 elections have been set aside because the employers have done the same kind of thing. To say union thugs will be doing this is stupid. It is really a question of stopping management consultants who use very sophisticated techniques to scare these employees into voting no. They're voting fear, they delay things, everything goes down at the employer's pace. The statute has been twisted by delays caused by the employers stopping and insisting on these elections.

Richard Ruelas:
What other -- you mentioned delays so they can put off the election. What other tactics have you seen businesses use --

Stan Lubin:
They basically have on the time clock meetings, in which they tell employees that if you vote for the union we start at zero, they threaten that they'll bargain forever. They talk about the fact that they will not be able to keep their jobs. They threaten to send stuff overseas. This is not Mexico this, is the United States. In Mexico the government controls a lot of the unions, so yes, they need secret ballots. Here the government does not control the unions, I don't see where the president is a hostage either.

Richard Ruelas:
We know that the -- you say the president is not a hostage?


Stan Lubin:
No. He's -- if he was a hostage, this law would have passed two years ago. We know you mentioned the business techniques, we note unions use thugs.

Stan Lubin:
What thugs? The fact is you do not see any instance other than -- like I said, 40 or 50 times in 75 years, you might have seen overly aggressive, bad activity that caused people maybe to push around. I happen to be involved in a lot of the litigation back in the '60s when I first started as a lawyer, I was at the NLRV and I was involved in two of the cases that went to the Supreme Court. One of which went to the Supreme Court, which established the right to have card checks. And I was involved in one of those cases myself. So I'm pretty familiar with it. I've been living with it since then the leading cases that came down in the early '60s and '70s.

Richard Ruelas:
Is that really known as a hard union state, have you heard of instances in Arizona where there's been coercion through card checks?

Clint Bolick:
Absolutely. And one of the reasons why we need to have the right to secret ballot is so that we don't have a mass push to unionization in this state. It's one of our few competitive advantages. I've been a member of a union. I've felt the heavy hand on my shoulder, the adversarial relationship that is oppressed by unions. That's one of the reasons why private sector unionization has plummeted over the last few decades, and often times when people vote their conscience in the ballot, they vote against unions. And that will not happen if you have pressure from either side. I agree with Stan on one point, there's employer thuggery as well. The right to secret ballot. It's important to protect against coercion in both instances.

Stan Lubin:
The problem you have is with the sophisticated -- as sophisticated antiunion consultants grew, union Marie Provine has gone down. There's no question. As manufacturing has moved overseas, union Marie Provine has gone down. The fact is, that the real need here is to stop employers from choosing what their employees' rights are. That's what this is about. I'm convinced there will be another lawsuit by passing this legislation, and I'm convinced that lawsuit will be filed shortly. And --

Richard Ruelas:
you're saying maybe after Congress passes this, we might --

Stan Lubin:
I'm not sure we need to wait that long. I don't know. I don't know if it will be filed right away or right after that passes. I'm not the one to make that decision.

Richard Ruelas:
There are currently laws against coercion in the union election.

Clint Bolick:
That's correct.

Richard Ruelas:
That's right. But the goldwater institute fights for less government control of private instance Tuscons, you're pushing for more government control.

Clint Bolick:
This is is an exist rate. It has been existing rate under federal law for 75 years. And so we are seeking to protect the right to secret ballot basically people being forced against their will, against the majority will of workers to form unions. And I'm wondering whether Stan has polled his own members, our polling has found that there is overwhelming support for the right to secret ballot in union elections, and that the strongest support comes from union members.


Richard Ruelas:
I guess the secret ballot is still allowed if it's just that the card check is another --

Clint Bolick:
if you get 50% plus one, you are a union.

Richard Ruelas:
And people have the right to contest and through to get a secret ballot, and --

Clint Bolick:
Basically the secret ballot will fall but disappear -- all but disappear from this process unless you can prove that coercion was used. Right now --

Richard Ruelas:
This is a big enough issue to don't the government involved in a ban of this -- of the card checks system.

Clint Bolick:
Absolutely, because a right that has existed in American law for 75 years, a right that is as American as apple pie, is in serious jeopardy right now.

Stan Lubin:
OK. That's really not accurate at all.

Richard Ruelas:
When the lawsuit gets filed, we'll have you both back.


Clint Bolick:
We may be slugging it out.

Richard Ruelas:
Thanks for joining us this evening on "Horizon."

Clint Bolick:
Thanks for having us.

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