June 8, 2011
Effort to pre-empt federal law is futile, huge waste of taxpayer money
Fresh off passing a budget that will result in tens of thousands of additional jobs lost in our state while undoing decades of progress which have made North Carolina the best place in the South to live, work, and get a quality public education, Republican state lawmakers are devising new ways to waste taxpayer money instead of creating jobs.
On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee gutted a bill – HB 800 – and replaced its text with a proposed amendment to the state constitution which, if approved by the voters, would deprive private-sector workers of their federally-guaranteed right to form a union by means other than a secret ballot election.
Apparently confused, the bill’s primary co-sponsor, freshman Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt of Asheville (pictured), told State Government Radio he is trying to protect citizens “from being subjected to a card-check type policy that is destined to get here if we don’t stop it now.”
In fact, card-check isn’t a new idea threatening to invade North Carolina; it’s the law, now.
The National Labor Relations Act has provided workers the right to ask their employer to recognize their union if they can evidence majority support in other ways than voting, such as by signing authorization cards, since 1935. This alternative to a NLRB-conducted election has been subsequently upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
Putting aside the comical notion that Republican state lawmakers really have any interest in preserving the rights of workers (see GOP-initiated attack on Workers’ Compensation), North Carolina, by statute or constitutional amendment, cannot pre-empt federal law. To wit, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
“It seems like a waste of our time here at the General Assembly to take up a bill which the National Labor Relations Board has clearly said is in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.
Following the fool’s path
Unfortunately, Rep. Moffitt’s idea is not a new one. Arizona, South Dakota, Utah, and South Carolina have attempted to impose the same unconstitutional restrictions on how workers can decide on union representation. The NLRB is suing Arizona and South Dakota in federal court to have their amendments invalidated. Should state Republican lawmakers here succeed in getting their anti-union amendment passed in 2012, North Carolina will land itself in federal court, as well.
“I would urge this committee not to pass this bill because it’s unnecessary and could potentially cost our state and our taxpayers a lot of money in litigation,” NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said at the committee meeting.
Our state has enough problems – hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers and a state legislature controlled by a Republican Party more interested in pursuing an ideologically driven agenda and rewarding its corporate campaign contributors than tackling our jobs crisis. The last thing North Carolina needs is years of litigation and millions of dollars in legal bills, but apparently, Rep. Moffitt and his caucus are asking for just that.
For more information about how these state constitutional amendments conflict with federal law, click here to download this fact sheet (PDF).