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Va. bill aims to protect secret union ballot

Michigan isn’t the only place where the GOP is trying to rein in unions.

In Virginia, already a right-to-work state, the Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee recently passed a bill that calls for amending the state’s constitution to guarantee voter privacy in union elections.

Held over from the 2012 General Assembly session, the bill is expected to come to the Senate floor in the session that opens Jan. 9.

“This amendment is essential if we are going to preserve voter integrity and privacy,” said Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), who introduced the measure. “No citizen should be forced to reveal how they voted in any election, be it a federal, state, local or a union election.”

Reeves’s bill is a response to proposed federal legislation to allow workers to organize by getting their co-workers to sign pro-union cards, a method known as “card check,” instead of by holding secret-ballot elections.

“Card check is a direct attack on the voting rights of Virginia workers,” Reeves said. “Should it become federal law, it will open up the floodgates of voter intimidation in union elections.”

“This is not a Republican, an independent or Democratic issue; this is a Virginia issue,” Reeves said. “My bill seeks to protect the integrity of the secret ballot no matter if that worker is a Republican, Democrat, independent or Libertarian.”

Union officials oppose the measure, saying that it is a way to allow employers to stall the organizing process and intimidate workers who support creation of unions.

“Virginia legislators should be focused on job creation, not attacking workers. Making and keeping Virginia a great place to live means ensuring families are economically secure,” Karen Conchar, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, said in a prepared statement. “Senator Reeves’ proposal simply gives CEOs more power to intimidate workers who are trying to get a fair shot.”

Another bill, proposed by Del. Richard P. Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), seeks to enshrine the state’s existing right-to-work law, which prevents employees from being required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, in the state Constitution.

David Broder, the president of SEIU 512, which represents some Fairfax County employees and home health-care workers statewide, said he does not see a need for the measure.

“At this time, when families are struggling, I don’t know why legislators would focus on getting something that’s already law into the Constitution,” he said. “What our members want legislators to do is focus on job creation, and good jobs, jobs to raise an family on.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.



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