Federal district court Judge Frederick Martone dismissed a challenge Wednesday to an Arizona law which only allows workplace organizing through a federally monitored secret ballot election. The case was filed against the state by the National Labor Relations Board.
The ruling was a defeat for organized labor because it furthered opened the door for other states to adopt laws that would prevent so-called union “card check”elections. Big Labor has pushed Congress and the Obama administration to allow card check nationally but the effort stalled in 2010.
Card check would radically simplify union elections by replacing the standard NLRB-monitored election with what amounts to a petition drive. Card check can currently be used only with the agreement of the employer. The proposal in Congress would have stripped employers of the ability to object. Unions favored it because they thought it would swell their ranks. Big Business opposed it for similar reasons.
The Arizona law, called the Secret Ballot Amendment, was first drafted by the conservative Goldwater Institute. It rules out card check in virtually all circumstances. The state adopted the law in 2010, along with South Dakota, South Carolina and Utah.
Last year, the NLRB, a federal agency whose members are appointed by the White House and Congress, sued Arizona to block the law. Business groups have alleged that the NLRB has leaned pro-labor under President Obama.
The NLRB’s lawsuit alleged the state was encroaching on it’s role as enforcer of the National Labor Relations Act. It further argued that the law stripped Arizonans of union rights because it ruled out a card check election even if the employer agreed to it.
“In today’s ruling, the Court has reined in the NLRB’s aggressive actions promoting unions and opposing the rule of law,” said Goldwater Institute President Darcy Olsen, in a statement. “This decision affirms the Goldwater Institute’s strategy of harnessing the power of state constitutions against federal overreach.”
The NLRB countered that the court had left open the possibility of future litigation.
“Our objective from the beginning was to ensure that employees protected by our law continue to have the same options for choosing representation that they have always had,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce. “Although we continue to believe that a preemption finding should have been made, we are very pleased that the court recognized that these choices are guaranteed to employees by federal law and cannot be taken away by the states.”
CLARIFICATION: Arizona’s Secret Ballot Amendment would still allow for a card check election provided that neither the employer and nor any of the employees raised an objection to it. An earlier version of this post said it was ruled out entirely.