South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says he hasn’t been able to fully move into his office yet, due to the bad weather last week.
Are we in? Yes. Are the nameplates and curtains up yet? Not yet.
However, the state’s top legal officer now finds himself preparing a defense for another possible lawsuit after a federal agency ruled last week that a state constitutional amendment violated federal law.
At issue is an amendment approved by 86 percent of South Carolina voters last Election Day which recognizes the rights of workers to unionize by secret ballot and not by card check.
Card check is when a majority of employees sign pro-union cards, thus avoiding an election. The amendment, which defined secret ballots as a “fundamental right,” effectively banned card checks. However, the National Labor Relations Board said the ban violates a federal law. Currently, federal regulations give employers the option of demanding a secret ballot, but do not require it.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said South Carolina’s response is simple.
It is my belief that the right of a person to vote… should outweigh the other values presented in the Employee Free Choice Act. A person’s vote should only be between them and their Maker, not them and union bosses.
Businesses complain that card checks allow unions to intimidate workers into unionizing. Unions say the two-month period required before a secret ballot allows employers an opportunity to bully workers into voting against it.
Wilson, who took over for former Attorney General Henry McMaster last week, is also continuing federal lawsuits against healthcare reform and the closure of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Wilson said he had not been aware of the labor law until he received a letter from the NLRB Friday, but said his office is examining their legal ground on the issue. He believes another part of federal law can justify South Carolina’s argument.
The (National Labor Relations Act) will pre-empt state laws unless they serve a significant state interest in ways that are not unduly burdensome to the federal regulatory scheme. I believe that it is a significant state interest for individuals to have a private vote to voice their opinion without coercion.
Wilson said the letter indicated South Carolina had two weeks to respond. Should the NLRB decide to move ahead with its lawsuit, the case would head to federal court. Wilson said he is working with his counterparts in Arizona, South Dakota, and Utah–which are also being sued by the NLRB.
Although the amendment was passed in November’s referendum, it still has to be ratified by the legislature.