Representative Jane Mike Cunningham (R-CrazytownMarshfield) just introduced HJR 31, a constitutional amendment that would make it even more difficult to organize unions than it already is:


Submitting to the qualified voters of Missouri an amendment repealing section 25 of article I of the Constitution of Missouri, and adopting one new section in lieu thereof relating to guaranteeing the right to vote by secret ballot.

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring therein:

           That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next following the first Monday in November, 2010, or at a special election to be called by the governor for that purpose, there is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of this state, for adoption or rejection, the following amendment to article I of the Constitution of the state of Missouri:

           Section A. Section 25, article I, Constitution of Missouri, is repealed and one new section adopted in lieu thereof, to be known as section 25, to read as follows:

           Section 25. That all elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; and that the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental and thus, where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed.

What this is aimed against is the Employee Free Choice Act (which already passed last year but was vetoed by Bush passed the House but failed cloture in the Senate.) In current law, the employer has the choice of accepting majority sign-up for a union or of accepting the results of a secret ballot election. The Employee Free Choice Act would give that choice to the employee. Under current law, usually the employer will ignore the results of the majority of their workers signing up to organize the workplace into a union, and instead opt for a “secret ballot” election that heavily favors the business, not the rights of the employee.

Among other things, the Employee Free Choice Act would reverse that, allowing the employees to decide which process is more favorable for them. It stands a good chance of passing in the next couple of years, as Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress and President Obama made its passage a priority in the campaign. Plus, as I mentioned before, it passed both houses last year with a smaller Democratic majority before it was vetoed by Bush before it was cut down by a failed cloture vote in the Senate 51-48. With Kennedy voting and Franken seated, the Democrats will have 59 votes, needing only one Republican to break ranks.

Supposedly this anti-Employee Free Choice Act constitutional amendment is there to protect our rights, because union people are intimidating or something. Let me tell you that I’m a lot more scared by my employer threatening my livelihood than a union organizer, typically a skinny young guy armed with a few pamphlets.

Imagine holding a statewide election where one side was able to require attendance of all voters to watch propaganda films on why the other side is wrong. Imagine that that same side could ship volunteers for the other side outside the state, or cut off their voting rights altogether. Imagine further that the same side could decide to shut down the entire state if they lost the election, or drag their feet on the results by claiming various technical problems until they can get a re-vote (OK, that’s already happening with Norm Coleman.) That’s what we have under current law with the supposedly sacred “secret ballot” elections for our workplaces. This is what Jane Mike Cunningham wants to enshrine into our state constitution as the only possible way to decide whether or not a workplace should be unionized.

I’m not sure how this amendment would interact with federal law if it were passed and made state constitutional law, but if the amendment passed the Missouri lege, it would go before Missouri voters in 2010. So we have ample opportunity to stop it, but the best idea is to kill it in its nest. Call your state legislators today! If you don’t know who your state rep and senator are, I’ll skip the lecture and direct you to this handy website.