The AFL-CIO says the November 2 referendum that would protect the right of workers to vote for labor union membership by secret ballot is not necessary.
Greenville Representative Eric Bedingfield sponsored state legislation requiring the referendum. He says it’s needed to head off a proposal before Congress.
AUDIO: Bedingfield on secret ballots (:52)
Critics say the referendum is another exercise in union bashing. Bedingfield disagrees, “That’s ridiculous. The bill I proposed made it through both the House and the Senate, two-thirds majority vote, with bi-partisan support.”
South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt says workers already take two private votes. The second vote is only taken if more than 50 percent of a company’s employees support a union during the first vote, called a “card check.”
Dewitt says a proposed federal bill that has union opponents concerned dropped a stipulation a year ago that would have done away with the second vote.
AUDIO: Dewitt on what she says is the truth behind the secret ballot referendum(1:30)
Dewitt asserts that those who want to keep unions away are scared of other things the federal proposal would do. It’s called the Employee Free Choice Act, and Dewitt says it would reduce the waiting time between the workers’ vote and a union actually moving into a company, allowing less time for union contract negotiations. She says the bill would also change rules concerning meetings where workers, on company time, have to listen to experts speak against unions.
Dewitt says skirting the federal bill would give companies more control.
With the recession we know corporations are still making a lot of money, but they still have not created a lot of jobs. They’re trying to do more with less and this gives them the opportunity to do more with less. The referendum gives them an opportunity to have control over the workplace, to use intimidation.
Dewitt says secret ballot referendums in numerous states originated in an anti-union “think tank.” Bedingfield says they were fueled by the pending federal bill.
Dewitt says the Employee Free Choice Act is just an attempt to update labor laws that haven’t changed since the 1930′s.
Dewitt says it’s disturbing that the change to the state constitution that would be brought on by the referendum would affect suffrage law, which governs voting in general, not just labor organizations.
The AFL-CIO or American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the largest federation of unions in the U.S.
The organization’s South Carolina segment conducted its annual convention last week in Georgetown, the location of the state’s largest labor union membership. Attendees heard from Nevada AFL-CIO Political Director Gale Tuzzolo on the subject of secret ballot referendums nationwide.
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