On January 27, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) reintroduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act (SBPA) (S. 217), legislation that would amend the National Labor Relations Act to guarantee the right to secret ballot union representation elections. Essentially, this measure would make it an unfair labor practice under the NLRA for an employer to recognize a union that has not been selected via secret ballot. In addition, this bill would make it unlawful for a union that has not been chosen as the employees’ exclusive representative in a secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB to cause or attempt to cause an employer to recognize or bargain with it. DeMint had introduced this bill in February 2009 as a pre-emptive move against the anticipated introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). In a statement, DeMint said: “Last Congress, union bosses and their Democrat allies tried their best to deny workers their basic American right to a guaranteed secret ballot election,” adding, “Secret ballot voting is a basic American value that we must protect. This bill ensures every American worker gets to cast a secret ballot vote without pressure and fear of retribution from union organizers and coworkers looking over their shoulder.”
The introduction of the SBPA coincides with a letter four state attorney generals sent to the NLRB in defense of their state constitutional amendments that similarly seek to preserve the right to secret ballot elections. Last month, the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel put the Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah attorney generals on notice that it was the agency’s position that the amendments were in violation of the NLRA, and that the Board would file lawsuits against each state if the amendments were not rescinded. In their joint January 27, 2011 letter, the attorney generals reject the NLRB’s demand to “stipulate to the unconstitutionality” of the amendments, and affirm that they “will vigorously defend any legal attack upon them.” The attorney generals explain that the NLRB premises its proposed lawsuit:
on the erroneous conclusion that our constitutional provisions require elections when federal law does not. We do not believe that is true. Our amendments support the current federal law that guarantees an election with secret ballots if the voluntary recognition option is not chosen. . . . Accordingly, your letter fails to establish that our State constitutional protections have disrupted the federal regulatory scheme in any way. Both the State amendments and the NLRA support secret ballot elections in selecting union representatives.
The letter concludes by urging the NLRB to reconsider its decision.
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