Elections Update: Labor Relations and the Polls

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

Constituencies in a number of states have made their votes known regarding hot topic labor relations issues. From California to Alabama, voters alternatively approved and struck down a number of initiatives and ballot referenda.

  • In Michigan, voters rejected Proposal 2, which would have preserved the right of public and private employees to collectively bargain in the state constitution. Proposal 4, which would have required home health care workers employed by the state to unionize, failed as well. In addition, Michigan voters rejected the state's Public Act 4, which allowed emergency managers to change or terminate collective bargaining agreements as part of their fiscal powers.
  • Californians again rejected a measure preventing unions and employers from making payroll deductions. California voters defeated Proposition 32 yesterday, and had defeated similar measures in 2005 and 1998.
  • In Illinois, voters rejected the Public Pension Amendment, which would have limited a state public entity from increasing public employee pension benefits without a three-fifths approval vote of its governing body (i.e., city council or school board).
  • South Dakota voters rejected Referred Law 16 in a veto referendum. The law would have significantly altered teacher employment rights and bonuses, including eliminating tenure altogether after 2016. The veto referendum was organized by the South Dakota Education Association, a teachers' union.
  • Teachers' unions and labor supporters were also active in Idaho, backing three measures that would affect union contracts, teacher pay calculations and funding formulas. Proposition 1 (restricting collective bargaining and phasing out tenure), Proposition 2 (a new "pay for performance" law linking student performance on state tests and teacher bonuses) and Proposition 3 (requiring great access to technology in classrooms) were rejected by voters, and all underlying legislation was repealed.
  • Alabama voters approved Amendment 7, preserving the use of secret ballots in most union organizing. Similar measures had been passed by Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

Employers should continue to monitor states for developments regarding right to work legislation and public sector labor relations initiatives. In addition, the NLRB and US Congress may address some of the issues addressed by voters this Election Day, especially those relating to secret ballots in union organizing.

Additional Resources

How is a union formed?

Labor Relations > Union Organization and Labor Relations

Collective Bargaining Process