Thursday, November 8, 2012
The 2012 Election and the Fate of State Labor Law Initiatives
As referenced in my last post, the future development of labor and employment law in the United States is not limited to a consideration of federal judicial, legislative, and regulatory developments. Additionally, state and local laws and initiatives also play a very important role in setting up the rules of the game in the workplace.
A number of ballot measures were at issue in different states during election night this past Tuesday, including a number involving public sector unions. Here is a non-exhaustive list and how some of them fared:
1. Voters rejected lmits on public sector teacher unions in Idaho and South Dakota. Idaho had three questions on the ballot regarding teacher unions, and South Dakota had one question about teacher unions. All were defeated. From the Huffington Post:
In Idaho, teachers unions chalked up another victory, using the referendum process to block the implementation of legislation that required teacher evaluations to measure student performance, eliminated tenure, restricted collective bargaining and introduced merit bonuses, among many other changes. One of the bills also gave all students laptops and mandated students take two semester-long online courses to graduate.
It is perhaps possible the Idaho legislature tried to tackle too much in one session. That’s a lot of power-shifting to convince parents to accept. A very similar education reform referendum in South Dakota also failed badly [67%-33%].
2. In Michigan, an emergency manager law, which allowed the state to appoint an emergency manager if a local government was failing financially also vested power in the emergency manager to cancel public employee collective bargaining rights and public employee union contracts. This law was struck down by voters by a margin of 52%-48%.
3. Michigan also had a proposal on the ballot that would have put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, but voters rejected that provision fairly easily 58%-42%.
4. Another state labor measure, Proposition 32 in California, would have prohibited unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes without specific individual permission from union members. After an expensive battle, the Propostion was soundly rejected by voters by a 56%-44% margin.
There are, of course, other measures that were considered in the labor/employment law area, but this gives a taste of what was on various state ballots and what trends there might be concerning the future of unionism and collective bargaining in various states.
Hat Tip: Joe Slater