ST. LOUIS — The fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act recently won a victory here in Missouri. House Joint Resolution 37, better known as Save Our Secret Ballots, went down in defeat when the Missouri legislature adjourned May 15.
HRJ37 would have amended the Missouri constitution to require secret ballots for all union elections. The Missouri legislation is part of a nation-wide campaign by big business, anti-union forces designed to give the impression that workers are against the Employee Free Choice Act, organized labor’s top priority.
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “The Save our Secret Ballot” organization is pushing similar anti-union constitutional amendments in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah. The group is based in Nevada.
Free Choice will strengthen the rights of workers to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation (often called card-check); it will also place stiffer penalties on employers who violate the law.
Current labor law allows for card check representation or a secret ballot. However, the choice is not made by the workers. It allows the employer to decide which process will be used.
According to a Cornell University study, 92 percent of private-sector employers force employees to attend closed-door, captive audience meetings where they are forced to listen to anti-union propaganda; 80 percent of employers require supervisors to attend training sessions attacking unions; and 78 percent require that supervisors give anti-union messages to workers they oversee.
Employee Free Choice would let workers, not their bosses, decide how they want the union recognized: through card check representation or through an election.
Many see state-level campaigns for bills like Save Our Secret Ballots as dangerous not only because they weaken workers’ rights, but also because they help the right-wing and big business build momentum as it tries to stop Free Choice at the federal level.
Senator Robin Wright-Jones, who helped block HJR37, told the World, ‘HJR37, the so-called Save Our Secret Ballots initiative, would have done nothing to protect workers’ rights. It would keep a broken system in place. Big business’ unsolicited interest only underscores the fact that the current system by which union elections are held does not meet the needs of today’s workers. So why keep it?’
Additionally, Wright-Jones asked, ‘Why is the Chamber of Commerce concerned about workers’ rights? They’ve never cared about workers before.’
Wright-Jones was referring to a spirited Jobs with Justice rally held earlier in May outside of the Clayton, Mo., Chamber of Commerce meeting where Karl Rove, who is staunchly anti-EFCA, was the keynote speaker.
‘The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers power in the workplace — power to fight for and win better wages, working conditions and benefits,’ Wright-Jones added.
HJR37 failed in Missouri because the MO AFL-CIO and Change To Win affiliates mounted a grassroots campaign that highlighted workers’ struggles for a better life, while shedding light on employer misconduct. Labor’s mobilization – from phone-banks to legislative visits — showed right-wing, anti-union forces that Missouri isn’t just the Show Me State. It’s a union state.