PHOENIX - Arizonans will get to vote on whether they want a provision added to the state constitution guaranteeing secret ballots in union elections.
On largely party-line votes, the Arizona House and Senate gave final approval Wednesday to putting the question to voters in November. No action by Gov. Jan Brewer is necessary, though she is on record as supporting the move. Only two Democrats voted with the Republican majority: Sen. Amanda Aguirre and Rep. Lynn Pancrazi, both of Yuma. Aguirre said she's a business owner who has always believed in secret ballots; Pancrazi left the House before she could be questioned.
The measure, if approved in November, would change nothing in existing law. The National Labor Relations Act already requires workers to vote by secret ballot on whether to organize.
But congressional Democrats hope to approve "card check" legislation. That would allow a union to be formed with simply the signatures and consent of at least half the affected workers, with no need for an election.
President Obama backs the Democrats' plan, telling the executive committee of the AFL-CIO last week that he still wants to push it through. And there has been talk of a post-election "lame duck" session of Congress to enact the change, especially if Republicans pick up seats in November.
State Democratic lawmakers who spoke out against the plan Wednesday said the three-day special session of the Legislature was a waste of time. Several said the question of whether Congress will change the law is a matter of pure speculation. But Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the push is on to enact "card check," and he believes the Obama administration will do whatever it takes to change the secret-ballot law. He pointed to deals made to secure votes for health-care legislation as what he fears could happen on the union issue.
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said it's irrelevant whether voters alter the Arizona Constitution. If the federal law is changed to allow unions to be formed without an election, that will supersede any state measure, he said.
WANT TO WEIGH IN?
Supporters and foes have until 5 p.m. Monday to file statements in support or opposition of what will be Proposition 113 with the Secretary of State's Office. Those statements will appear in a pamphlet explaining ballot measures; it will be mailed to the homes of all registered voters.
Arguments can be no longer than 300 words. The cost to submit a statement is $100, but there is a $25 discount if it is submitted electronically, by compact disc or by e-mail, though a paper copy must be attached.
All arguments must be signed and notarized.