GOP political stunt targeted federally-protected option during union drives

Richmond, Va. – This afternoon, Senate Republicans failed to approve a constitutional amendment that openly conflicts with federal law. The vote was 20-17, with all Democrats opposed. (Constitutional amendments require twenty-one votes in order to pass; one Republican senator did not vote.) Under the guise of protecting Virginians’ ability to vote by secret ballot, Sen. Bryce Reeves’ (R – Spotsylvania) SJ 278 would have prohibited a federally-protected means of organizing a union.

Said Sen. Donald McEachin (D - Henrico), “SJ 278 would put our state constitution into direct conflict with federal law. Instead of wasting time on such a cheap political stunt, Republicans should be working with us to enact common-sense solutions that help Virginians lead safer, healthier, and more prosperous lives.”

Said Sen. John Edwards (D - Roanoke), “We already have the secret ballot in the political process, as we should, but this resolution also applies to labor unions. Federal law pre-empts this amendment as it applies to organized labor, because labor relations are covered by the National Labor Relations Act. Passing a Virginia constitutional amendment on this issue would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”


Under the National Labor Relations Act, unions can be formed by either a secret ballot or a card check process. If employers wish to contest the result of a card check, they can require that it be ratified by secret ballot — but if they wish to accept the result and move on, they have that right, as well. If all union organizing efforts were required to include a secret ballot, employers would lose that option.


The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus supports the legislative, political and electoral endeavors of Virginia Democratic senators. The caucus does everything it can to help senators carry out their mission to represent all Virginians and pass legislation that reflects Virginia’s mainstream values.
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