Labor board sues Arizona over antiunion law

Employee Free Choice Act

Three other states may face NLRB suits

IF THE EMPLOYEE Free Choice Act ever became law (the legislation has been halted for now in the U.S. Congress), workers could form a union simply and quickly. All they would need is a majority of the proposed bargaining unit to sign cards. Or they could opt for a secret ballot election. However, governments in four states — all led by Republican governors and Republican-majority legislatures — have recently passed constitutional amendments to deny workers the first option, in effect heading off any future Free Choice law.

The National Labor Relations Board has cried foul and has filed suit against Arizona seeking to invalidate the state’s amendment. The NLRB is expected to file a similar suit against South Dakota soon, and may move against the amendments in South Carolina and Utah at a later date.

The NLRB says the state amendments conflict with current federal law which allows an employer to grant voluntary recognition of a collective bargaining agent after a majority of employees have signed authorization cards. The new state laws would deny employers that option, making secret ballot elections the only choice. The labor board further contends that the four states are in violation of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution that says when state and federal laws conflict, federal laws prevail.

Organized labor has supported Employee Free Choice legislation to counter the tactics of employers who circumvent or violate current labor laws. Among those tactics are purposely delaying elections to weaken organizing campaigns, firing employees who are active in organizing, and coercing employees in one-on-one meetings into rejecting the union. Antiunion companies and their allies often argue, falsely, that the Employee Free Choice Act would deny workers the right to secret ballot elections — and they claim they are only interested in “protecting the rights” of employees.