Anti-Union Corporate Front Groups Promote Distorted "Save Our Secret Ballots" Initiative Campaigns

Anti-Union Corporate Front Groups Promote Distorted "Save Our Secret Ballots" Initiative Campaigns

Thursday, January 22, 2009



By: Nathan Newman

Anti-Union Front Groups Promote Distorted "Save Our Secret Ballots" Initiative Campaigns

With a new administration in Washington, D.C. promising to enact federal labor law reform for the first time in generations, corporations are plowing money into the states in an attempt to undermine workers rights there.  Calling itself the "Save Our Secret Ballot" (SOSB) coalition, this corporate effort is looking to amend the state constitutions of Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada and Utah to block workers from choosing majority sign-up rules to form unions -- a clear attempt to thwart implementation of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act which if enacted would give employees the choice of traditional elections run by the federal government or signing authorization cards by a majority of employees.  

The SOSB seems to be a project of the conservative, Arizona-based Goldwater Institute and the national Heritage Foundation (whose representative chairs the SOSB national advisory board).  The SOSB joins a national network of corporate-funded, anti-worker organizations that are seeking to erode labor rights and the freedom to form unions at the federal, state and local level.  (See here for more on the corporate-funded Anti-Union Network).

Ignoring Worker Choice under Employee Free Choice Act:  While the rhetoric of the campaign is to protect workers' right to use a secret ballot in union organizing campaigns, they deliberately ignore the reality that under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, workers would still have the right to use a secret ballot and would only use majority sign-up rules if a majority of workers chose the option.  What would change under the Employee Free Choice Act is that EMPLOYERS could no longer force a prolonged union election campaign -- where it's documented that workers are fired and intimidated -- when a majority of workers would prefer a simpler and less intimidating process.

Whether the state ballot initiatives would be legal under federal labor law is unclear.  What is clear though is that the goal of the campaign is to promote the corporate lie that the Employee Free Choice Act would undermine workers' freedom to use or not use secret ballots.

Along with publicly debunking the lies of the SOSB corporate front groups, progressive leaders should push to have their states approve resolutions, such as Wisconsin State Senate Resolution 7 in support of federal passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

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By: Nathan Newman

Update on the Federal Recovery Package and the States

Jobs Creted by Different Measures in Recovery Program Progressive States highlighted a range of studies and analyses in last week's Dispatch on the importance of aid to the states as a centerpiece for economic recovery.  Many state leaders praised the House version of the package introduced last week.  Additional studies released this past week continue to reinforce the point that investments in the states are key to economic recovery:

  • The House version of the recovery program adopts the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act (H.R. 291) to help states upgrade their unemployment programs to extend help to more workers, including: part-time workers; the long-term unemployed; those with additional dependents; those forced to leave jobs because of issues like domestic violence; those suffering reduced benefits because of antiquated benefit rules; and a number of other reforms.  As the National Employment Law Project documents, the House bill will also increase unemployment benefits across the board for 18 million workers.  Additionally, the bill provides $500 million in new funding to help the Employment Service better assist workers in finding new jobs, as well as subsidies to help workers below 200% of the poverty line either hold onto their old employer-based health care or receive Medicaid.
  • A new report, How Infrastructure Investments Support the U.S. Economy: Employment, Productivity, and Growth  emphasizes the job gains from investments in highways, bridges, waterways and transit.  The report by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and University of Massachusetts-Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) estimates that 2.6 million jobs would be created by accellerating such investments and spending $148 billion per year to rebuild U.S. infrastructure.
  • Despite fears of the costs of the federal economic recovery proposal, an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities finds that the $825 billion proposal will amount to just 3 percent of the overall projected budget shortfall through 2050, indicating that a prudent stimulus of the economy today will not create significant, long-term budget challenges.

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By: Adam Thompson

States File Suit Against Last Minute Bush Rule Limiting Women's Access to Reproductive Services

7 states are suing the federal government to stop a last minute rule by former President Bush that pre-empts state laws guaranteeing women's access to reproductive services, including abortion and emergency contraception. The so-called "provider conscience regulation" became effective on Tuesday shortly after President Obama's swearing-in and allows health care workers who object to abortion and contraception to deny women care.  This pre-empts state laws designed to ensure access to necessary reproductive care and threatens womens' health, as detailed by the National Women's Law Center

In Connecticut, the lead state in the suit, the Bush rule would pre-empt three state laws: (1) requiring all hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape survivors; (2) requiring pharmacists to dispense drugs without discrimination based on the type of drug; and (3) requiring insurers to provide coverage for medication without discrimination about the type of drug.  Several organizations have filed parallel lawsuits to stop the rule, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (press release and text of suit), ACLU, and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

States Rights' or Political Cover?  This last salvo from the outgoing Bush Administration exposes the hypocrisy of conservative rhetoric supporting "states' rights."  In her notorious Katie Couric interviews, then Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin said Roe v. Wade should be overturned and that states should set their own abortion policy.  Short of an outright constitutional ban on abortions across the US, this let-the-states-decide position is typical of conservatives' rhetoric opposing a woman's right to choose.  However, this invoking of "states' rights" is little more than opportunistic political dogma, as evidenced by the Bush rule which subverts the notion of "states' rights" by voiding state laws ensuring women's access to necessary medical care.

Fortunately, President Obama has voiced his opposition to the Bush rule and is expected to reverse it. How swiftly the new Administration can rollback the rule is uncertain because it has already taken legal effect and federal rule-making procedures may require a length rule-making process.  While this is sorted out, President Obama may seek to postpone the effective date of the regulation in light of the pending lawsuits. 


By: Christian Smith-Socaris

Providing Immediate Services to Families in Crisis: The New Paradigm for Status Offender Systems

The Vera Institute of Justice recently released a report, Making Court the Last Resort: A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis, that outlines the significant improvements some states are making in how they respond to chronically disobedient children.

Many families struggle with a child's chronic disobedience such as truancy, alcohol and drug use or other rebellious, but not criminal, behavior.  For families without the means to access private care, often the government is the only place they can turn for help.  States have put in place "status offender" systems to repond to such youth.  However, these systems frequently act as a conduit for non-criminal youth to enter the juvenile court system and receive punitive interventions similar to those for youth charged with criminal activity.  This is in spite of the fact that court involvement and detention tend to exacerbate instead of resolve behavior problems.

But now states are recognizing the failure of their status offender systems to promote healthy families and are refocusing them on providing immediate, family-focused alternatives to court intervention. Avoiding the criminal justice system through this approach has the support of the American Bar Association and a large majority of the public.  (Also critical to ongoing efforts to reform status offender systems is the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative, which is currently working with Washington and Louisiana on these issues.)  The results of these reform efforts have been much better outcomes for youths, as well as, savings for the taxpayer.

Florida:   Florida has created a status offender system that puts the family first, prioritizing keeping families intact in the community and youth out of the criminal justice system.  They did this by creating a system that directs the families of juvenile status offenders to a "families in need of services" (FINS) system.  Upon referral to the FINS system families receive immediate crisis intervention from a non-profit provider that contracts with the Dept. of Juvenile Justice.  This provider's services include both non-residential intervention and outreach, as well as residential respite centers.  These services are available around the clock, every day.

Families whose problems are not resolved through the FINS system are brought into a conference with other stakeholders such as school staff to decide how to proceed.  Additional services could be provided and a modified service plan developed or the case could be refered to juvenile court.  However, this is rarely necessary as the success of the FINS system has been dramatic.

  • Over the past three years only 6% of FINS cases have been petitioned to court as CINS cases.
  • 96% of youth are crime-free while in the FINS program; 90% successfully complete the services; and 90% of successful completors were crime-free for six months after exiting the program.
  • Florida TaxWatch estimates that this system saved the state over $30 million in one fiscal year.

The executive director of the FINS service provider sums up the program thus:  "By helping families stay together, we are saving taxpayer dollars and strengthening ties between families and their home communities.  Just as important, we are serving habitually truant youth and stemming the flow of youth into the juvenile justice system."

New York:  New York has recently followed the lead of one of its counties, Orange, in revamping elements of its status offender system.  Again, the change has involved bringing in a non-profit service provider to immediately respond to families in crisis with needed services.  Under the new system, when parents seek help they are initially screened and referred immediately to the service provider, who then sends a caseworker to interview the family within 48 hours.  In severe cases it can be even sooner.  The provider then develops a service plan and must connect the family with useful services within three weeks.  Additionally, the state has amended its Family Court Act to limit detention to instances where there is no reasonable likelihood that diversion services will be successful and all available alternatives have been exhausted.  Like Florida, the state is seeing very positive results:

  • Status offender court petitions decreased over 40% from 2004 to 2006,
  • Non-secure detention of youth in the status offender system fell 39% from 2005 to 2006 (excludes New York City).
  • Out-of-home placements for youth in the status offender system fell 28% from 2004 to 2006.

Connecticut:  Connecticut suffered until recently with a very poor status offender system.  The state's judicial branch received over 4,000 referral from the system the year before it was revamped in 2007.  This was combined with a virtual lack of services for these youth, and a frequent practice of incarcerating youth in detention facilities for violating judicially imposed behavioral rules.  This system was clearly failing as more than half of the young people involved in it were later charged with delinquency offenses.

To improve the system the state made several changes.  First it prohibited the use of secure detention for status offender cases.  Then the state established an advisory board to recommend further reforms.  In response to this review the state mandated that every young person referred to court for the first time as a status offender be diverted to support services.  These services are provided by non-profit-run Family Service Centers (FSC), which give immediate support through crisis intervention, case management, family mediation, educational advocacy, support groups and one-on-one therapeutic sessions.  Only if the family has multiple crises during the FSC intervention or the young person's behavior worsens is the case referred to the court.

Though just recently implemented, the new system is already paying dividends:

  • Status Offense court referrals decreased 41% between Oct. 2007 and Mar. 2008.
  • No status offender youth have been in secure detention since the FSC programs began, down from an average of 300 before.

Conclusion:  While well intentioned, status offender systems have been a failure at keeping families together and young people out of trouble.  Yet, some states are looking to a new paradigm of dealing with chronically disobedient youth that emphasises immediate services and diversion from the criminal justice system.  Those states have seen dramatic decreases in the need for detention and other punative interventions as services restore balance to families in crisis.  This has not only benefited the families involved, but also reduces reliance on the criminal justice system and thereby saves these states money.


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Research Roundup

The 2005 Tax Overhaul and Ohio's Economy -  In 2005, the Ohio legislature passed a massive tax cut bill which is currently removing $2 billion a year from the state budgets, forcing massive cuts in state spending.  As this report by Policy Matters Ohio documents, the result of those tax cuts were not the economic growth promised but a state economy falling further behind the rest of the nation on key indicators such as employment, output, income, and productivity.  

The United States Needs a Tougher Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target for 2020 - Since our nation already has the technology and resources to reduce its emissions levels substantially below 1990 levels by 2020 and the threat of climate change demands far more ambitious goals, this report by the Center for American Progress argues that we should aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 30 percent below 1990 levels -- and work internationally to spread that standard.

Reducing Inequities in Health and Safety through Prevention - With thousands of Americans dying from preventable diseases and injusries, especially in low-income and minority communities, this brief by the Prevention Institute and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies provides recommendations for policymakers on prevention strategies that address health equity issues.

Why are Paid Sick Days an Important Policy Issue? - With 13 states introducing legislation to require employers to provide paid sick days to employees, this mini-brief by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network highlights what the policy is, why it's important, recent legislation, and a guide to site with additional information.

Please email us leads on good research at


NEW: "PSN Profiles" Video Series

Starting this week, PSN will begin a weekly series of video profiles of key members of our network from across the country. In these PSN Profiles, we hope to put a face on the multitude of state leaders who work tirelessly -- often with little reward or recognition on the national stage -- to lay the groundwork for a lasting American progressive majority.

Each PSN Profile will consist of a roughly 10-minute interview with one of our key legislative allies, partner advocates, or board members and will range in topic from personal anecdotes to specific policy goals. This week, we're kicking things off this week with a double dose of interviews conducted at this December's 2008 Legislative Leadership Retreat. The first is with nationally syndicated columnist and PSN Founding Co-Chair David Sirota. The second is with former Montana Senate Majority Leader and PSN Co-Founder Steve Doherty.

Check them out! And if you enjoy them, please be sure to send the link to a friend or embed the videos somewhere on your blog or website. We'll be adding more interviews every week with interviews with leaders from Kansas to Washington, so be sure to check back at for more!

Interview with David Sirota

Nationally syndicated columnist, author, and PSN Founding Co-chair

Interview with Steve Doherty

Former Montana Senate Majority Leader and PSN Co-founder



Anti-Union Corporate Front Groups Promote Distorted "Save Our Secret Ballots" Initiative Campaigns

SEIU - Yet Another Corporate Front Group: "Save Our Secret Ballots"
AFL-CIO - Don’t Be Fooled: ”˜SOS Ballot’ Another Corporate Front Group
AFL-CIO - The Campaign Against Workers
American Rights At Work - The Anti-Union Network
Wisconsin State Senate Resolution 7 in support for federal Employee Free Choice Act

House Passes SCHIP Reform, but States Still Need Help on Insuring ALL Kids

Progressive States Network - States Promoting Contraception to Reduce Unwanted Pregnancies and Abortion Rates
National Women's Law Center - Final HHS Rule Threatens Women's Access to Health Care Information and Options, Poses Serious Risks to Women's Health
Planned Parenthood Federation of America - Planned Parenthood Sues over Disastrous Midnight Regulation and PPFA v. Dept. of Health and Human Services
PPFA - Insurance Coverage for Birth Control and Access to Emergency Contraception and Title X Family Planning Funding

Providing Immediate Services to Families in Crisis: The New Paradigm for Status Offender Systems

Vera Isntitute of Justice - Making Court the Last Resort: A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis
American Bar Association - Juvenile Status Offenses Factsheet
American Bar Association - Early Interventions for Juvenile Status Offenders
MacArthur Foundation - Models for Change Initiative
Models for Change - Studies Show Public Supports and is Willing to Pay for Rehabilitative Programs
Connecticut Status Offender Reforms
National Juvenile Justice Network
Justice Policy Institute
Center for Children's Law and Policy


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Interim Executive Director
Caroline Fan, Immigration and Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Broadband and Economic Development Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist
Austin Guest, Communications Specialist
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

Please shoot us an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.


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