Union organization bill heads to Lingle
A bill that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers has cleared the state Legislature.
House Bill 2974 passed the Senate 21-4, with all four Republicans voting no. The eight GOP representatives were the only no votes in the 43-8 tally in the House.
The bill calls for a streamlined union certification process. Under the proposal, employees would only have to sign a card saying they were in favor of the union and if a majority of the employees sign up, the union is authorized to bargain with management.
Opponents claim the measure takes away the right of workers to an election and the secret ballot.
"We are telling people how it is important to register to vote and here we are turning our backs on employees who would have their right to a secret ballot taken away," Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said.
The bill now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle. If she vetoes the measure, there is still time for the Democratic majority to override her veto without the Legislature calling a special session.
The bill was strongly supported by labor unions and opposed by the business community and the Lingle administration.
Randy Perreira, president of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, said in testimony to the Senate that under present law an employer does not have to recognize a union's drive to collect signature cards of workers who want a union.
"An employer can insist on a secret ballot election ... in a high number of cases, the employer uses the time before the vote to pressure employees not to join the union," Perreira said.
Darwin Ching, state labor director, opposed the bill, noting that an employer cannot threaten to fire, lay off or discipline an employee because of union support.
"This is an issue of fairness," Ching said.
"Employees should be allowed to voice their support for or against a union in the privacy of the voting booth without undue pressure or intimidation from both management and the union," Ching said.