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State Facing Lawsuit Over Constitutional Amendment

January 24, 2011

SIOUX FALLS, S. D. - The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is threatening to sue South Dakota and three other states over constitutional amendments that guarantee workers the right to a secret ballot in union elections.

Business and anti-union groups got the amendment on the ballot, concerned that Congress may enact the "card check" law, which would allow union organizing without a vote. Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota State Federation of Labor, says his organization tried to warn of possible conflicts last fall.

"We advised them that would happen, because that constitutional amendment is in direct opposition to federal law. So, we told them during the campaign, and we told them during the last legislative session, that it was almost guaranteed that they'd get sued – and they didn't pay attention. So now, here we are."

Anderson says the Federation does not expect union organizing to change in any way, despite the state amendment.

"We don't what them to try and circumvent federal law, and that's what they are trying to do. Collective bargaining rights have been guaranteed by federal law since 1935, and it really needs to stay out of state hands, just because of the way organizing works. If the states try to get into it and administer it, it just won't work."

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has promised to "vigorously" defend the state constitution. The other states getting letters from the NLRB about similar issues include South Carolina, Arizona and Utah.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD