The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) [official website] filed a complaint [text, PDF; press release] on Friday in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website], challenging a state constitutional amendment that guarantees a vote by secret ballot for employee representation. The NLRB, an independent US agency that is charged with conducting elections for labor unions and remedying unfair labor practices, argues that Article 2 § 37 [text] of Arizona's Constitution acts to limit the means by which employees can choose union representation and conflicts with various sections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) [29 USC §§ 151-169]. According to the NLRB, the NLRA provides methods in addition to secret ballot elections for private-sector employees to choose a union but contends that the amendment forecloses these options:
Under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, private-sector employees have two ways to choose a union: They may vote in a secret-ballot election conducted by the NLRB, or they may persuade an employer to voluntarily recognize a union after showing majority support by signed authorization cards or other means. The state amendments prohibit the second method and therefore interfere with the exercise of a well-established federally-protected right. As the complaint submitted to the Court today explains, "The NLRA permits but does not require secret ballot elections for the designation, selection, or authorization of a collective bargaining representative where, for example, employees successfully petition their employer to voluntarily recognize their designated representative on the basis of reliable evidence of majority support."As a result of this alleged direct conflict with federal law, the NLRB seeks a declaration that the amendment is preempted by the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII background] of the US Constitution.
The constitutional amendment, passed by state voters in the November 2010 elections, is one of many new state laws that will impact labor unions. In April, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed a Petition for Supervisory Writ directly to the state Supreme Court after a trial judge temporary blocked [JURIST reports] a controversial bill that limits the rights of public employee unions. The suit claimed that the judge did not have the constitutional authority to block the publication of the Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11, PDF]. It also asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] to immediately take jurisdiction of the case and dismiss it. In March, The Ohio Senate [official website] passed Senate Bill 5 [JURIST report], which altered Ohio labor law and restricts the collective bargaining abilities of unions for public sector workers. Under the legislation, unions can only collectively bargain for wages and equipment for personal safety and that public employees cannot strike.