No-vote unionization law vetoed in Hawaii

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a bill Monday that would replace secret ballot elections for union representation with a simple petition. The so-called "card-check" bill would replace a current law that requires an election by secret ballot when workers attempt to organize.

House Bill 2974 requires that union organizers only need to gather signatures from a majority of employees that favor forming a union.

The legislation is modeled after the Employee Free Choice Act, currently under consideration by the U.S. Congress.

HB 2974 has the support of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, the ILWU Local 142, the Hawaii Government Employees Association and other labor groups.

The unions have said the card-check process is simply "streamlining" the present system and making it less "coercive" by toning down the rhetoric on both sides that typically accompanies such elections.

But the bill is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association and the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, who say the bill undermines workers' rights because it removes the anonymity of the election process.

"Maintaining the secret ballot is the best way to protect workers' privacy and to ensure workers have the ability to vote their conscience without fear of repercussion or retaliation," Lingle, a Republican, said in a statement. "There is no compelling justification for replacing a fair, democratic process with one that has the potential to erode a worker's existing rights and protections under the law."

The Legislature has until May 1 to override the governor's veto. A two-thirds majority in both chambers is required.


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