The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Decorum Forum girds for battle

The Decorum Forum is, I believe I can safely say, carrying the most information about the most important issue on the November ballot in South Dakota.

The elections of the people from among whom we have to choose are pretty much tossups in my mind. I don’t think the election of a particular person to a particular office will result in significant change in my life. The ballot issues, though, are pretty important and their passage or failure can, and will in some cases, have significant effect on my life. Following are the two proposed constitutional amendments and the two proposed changes to statute law on which you can vote in November (or earlier by absentee ballot).

Constitutional Amendment K - An amendment to Article VI of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot.

Constitutional Amendment L - Amendments to Article XIII of the Constitution, relating to the trust fund created from the proceeds of the state cement enterprise sales.

Referred Law 12 - An Act to prohibit smoking tobacco or carrying lighted tobacco products in certain places and to require certain persons to inform violators of the prohibition.

Initiated Measure 13 - An Act to provide safe access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons.

Click HERE to read the proposed laws and the attorney general’s explanation of them.

These are my endorsements:
Amendment K; YES (seems fundamental)
Amendment L; NO OPINION (I hope someone makes up my mind for me. Tell me how I should vote, and why.)
Referred Law 12; NO (unconscionable intrusion into personal and private affairs, which will probably pass)
Initiated Measure 13; YES (let patients and doctors decide on courses of therapy)

Other fora will probably take up the first three issues. IM13 will be discussed at length here.

34 comments:

Thad Wasson said...

I thought the standing rumor was that Janklow cashed in early the cement plant proceeds. Guess not.

DDC said...

Bob,

Just so everyone is on the same page. The State sold the cement plant that it owned in Rapid City in 2001 for $255 million. That money now resides in a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of the State.

The way that I read Amendment L is that it will reduce the amount of money that is required by law to be transferred to the State's general fund.

Currently, the law states that $12 million must be transferred from the trust fund to the general fund every year. Amendment L lowers that mandatory transfer to $8 for four years and then takes away the mandate after that.

The State legislature may then pull a maximum of 4% out of the trust fund, but may not lower the amount in the fund below $255 million (the original principle of the fund, which it below at the moment ~ $215mil).


I'm not set in stone, but I'm for it at the moment. I like the idea of the State having a big fund that could be tapped into during an extreme emergency (by another amendment, it could not be done by the legislature). The way the fund is currently set up, it could run dry through the mandatory transfer amount. It gets hit really hard when the market is down, as it is currently.

I believe this will stop any transfers to the general fund (after the 4 years of $8mil transfers specified) until the fund reaches it's original $255mil. It'll be a little more money that will need to be found for the general fund every year until it gets back to $255mil, but I think that's better than letting it run out and then needing to permanently find a replacement revenue source and lose that emergency fund.

DDC said...

Actually, it generally reduces to $8mill before dropping to the 4%.

"...FY2012 for eleven million dollars, in FY2013 for ten million dollars, in FY2014 for nine million dollars, and in FY2015 for eight..."

DDC said...

Man, I hate these tiny comment boxes. I can't seem to put together 5 coherent sentences in them.

FF said...

Bajeezus, DDC, you're killing us with the facts. Stick to the rumors and throw in some name-calling for flavor.

Bob Newland said...

DDC, I generally prepare anything longer than one sentence in a word-processor, then copy and paste into the comment box. I figure if any one of the sentences is coherent, I'm ahead of the game.

Bill Fleming said...

FF, now you're talkin'.

$%)*(*!@ socialist, commie, pinko cement plant money. We should just burn it. It's bad Karma. We have no business using the fruits of that horrific communist experiment to save our butts in bad capitalist times. We should just suck it up and tough it out, by gawd. Besides, it's Mexican money. Most of it probably came from illegals.

Bill Fleming said...

p.s.

K: NO. it prohibits other perfectly legal methods of voting. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing — trap to keep workers from having Union representation via simple card check.

L: See above Cement Plant rant. Who cares?

RL12: YES. Smokers don't have a right to give other people lung cancer.

IM13. YES. lung cancer victims have a right to pain relief.

Bob Newland said...

Bill F.: Can you expound on your view of Amendment K? I honestly don't understand the argument. I also admit to not having researched it.

DDC said...

@Bob

Great advice, I think I'll go that route from now on, much easier to see what I'm typing in a processor!

@Bill

Should we allow members of South Dakota Gun Owners (the organization) to walk around to people's homes in November to collect votes on open ballots? How about South Dakota Right to Life next time abortion gets on the ballot? Maybe We should let the Governor see all state employee's ballots so he will know how they voted?

Look at how ridiculous those suggestions are and try and explain how allowing union leaders to confront workers and demand an answer as to whether or not they want to join a labor union is a good idea.

The only thing that comes from Card Check is the opportunity for union leaders to intimidate workers into joining a union that they may not have wanted to.

Good for increasing union membership, bad for individual liberty and democracy.

Bill Fleming said...

Under Card Check the workers already have a right to a secret ballot. Requiring them to have elections allows the EMPLOYER to intimidate them, not the Union. The unions have no reason to intimidate workers. They're all on the same side. Big employers have well organized, well funded Union busting goon squads who systematically, strategically and routinely intimidate workers to keep them from organizing.

City Council doesn't vote by secret ballot. Neither does the legislature. Neither do juries. Neither do absentee voters. All in agreement, say Aye. All opposed?

I'll get you more info, Bob.

Bill Fleming said...

Bob, here is a pretty good overview.
http://www.slate.com/id/2213352

Bill Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Fleming said...

DDC, petitions have to be signed and verified before candidates and/or issues can get on the ballot. They are not secret. The notion that all voting has to be secret is just something Management is using to divide and conquer the workers. Same old same old.

Who should decide if employees have an election, the workers, or their employers? And if 50 or 60% of the workers are willing to put their names on a petition saying they want a union, what difference does it make if they have a secret ballot election?

As to intimidation, who's more intimidating, the guy who signs your check, or the guy who wants to help make your checks bigger?

(By the way, it only takes 30% of the workers to say they want a secret ballot to override the 50 or 60% who are ok just signing cards.)

Fact is, the way it is now, the workers can go ahead and HAVE a secret ballot election, vote the Union in, and Management STILL has ways they can refuse to recognize them.

Like I said, this is a smoke screen bill designed by big business to dupe workers into acting against their own best interest. They'll probably succeed. They usually do. (p.s. I am an employer myself.)

DDC said...

C'mon now Bill, really?


“The unions have no reason to intimidate workers. “

Other than mandatory dues.


“City Council doesn't vote by secret ballot. Neither does the legislature. Neither do juries. Neither do absentee voters. All in agreement, say Aye. All opposed? “

The City Council is (usually) a democratically elected body that is voting on behalf of the citizens that it represents, as is the legislature. Voters have a right to see how the person that they elected is voting in their name. Not even close to the same thing.

In many jurisdictions, juries vote via secret ballot and the jurors are only named by number and a few personal details, especially when there is the fear of intimidation or retaliation. A good recent example of this is the Blagojevich trial, the judge has ordered that the names of the jurors will be kept secret.

I don't know of any state that allows the disclosure of how absentee voters voted. As far as I know, it is crime in SD for a county auditor (or absentee ballot counting board) to publicly disclose how an absentee voter (or any other voter) voted. I could be wrong, but I sure hope that I'm not.

“DDC, petitions have to be signed and verified before candidates and/or issues can get on the ballot. They are not secret. “

Petitions are not binding votes (they're actually not votes at all) and a majority of people do not need to sign a petition to get something on a ballot. I would also argue that petition signers names should not be released to the general public (for fear of intimidation, which has happened often, even in SD), but that is an argument for another time.

“The notion that all voting has to be secret is just something Management is using to divide and conquer the workers. Same old same old. “

How on earth can a secret ballot be used by Management to “divide and conquer the workers”? That makes absolutely no sense. If anything, it keeps Management from retaliating against workers that vote for unionization.

Why are we capitalizing Management?!? :)

“Who should decide if employees have an election, the workers, or their employers? And if 50 or 60 people are willing to put their names on a petition saying they want a union, what difference does it make if they have a secret ballot election? “

The workers should, under the current system where 30% are required to sign a petition that they would like to hold an election and then 50% +1 need to approve unionization by secret ballot. That eliminates intimidation and retaliation against voters by both employer and employee.

Union members may have intimidated a worker into signing or misrepresented what signing the card means. If they were intimidated into signing the card and don't want to be unionized, they can change their votes on the secret ballot without fear of retaliation from the union leaders. It also goes the other way and people that didn't sign cards for fear of the employer retaliating can vote for unionization with fear of retaliation from the employer.



Even Democratic stalwarts George McGovern and Warren Buffet know what an affront to democracy card check is and have come out very publicly against EFCA.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afjp4Cx-3W0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFpU5KSI3TU


A little more reading from the Cato Institute:
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10037





I'll pose these questions:

Should Dennis Daugaard be allowed to go to every state employee's home with an official ballot and have them vote with him standing in front of them?

If no, why not?

DDC said...

C'mon now Bill, really?


“The unions have no reason to intimidate workers. “

Other than mandatory dues.


“City Council doesn't vote by secret ballot. Neither does the legislature. Neither do juries. Neither do absentee voters. All in agreement, say Aye. All opposed? “

The City Council is (usually) a democratically elected body that is voting on behalf of the citizens that it represents, as is the legislature. Voters have a right to see how the person that they elected is voting in their name. Not even close to the same thing.

In many jurisdictions, juries vote via secret ballot and the jurors are only named by number and a few personal details, especially when there is the fear of intimidation or retaliation. A good recent example of this is the Blagojevich trial, the judge has ordered that the names of the jurors will be kept secret.

I don't know of any state that allows the disclosure of how absentee voters voted. As far as I know, it is crime in SD for a county auditor (or absentee ballot counting board) to publicly disclose how an absentee voter (or any other voter) voted. I could be wrong, but I sure hope that I'm not.

“DDC, petitions have to be signed and verified before candidates and/or issues can get on the ballot. They are not secret. “

Petitions are not binding votes (they're actually not votes at all) and a majority of people do not need to sign a petition to get something on a ballot. I would also argue that petition signers names should not be released to the general public (for fear of intimidation, which has happened often, even in SD), but that is an argument for another time.

“The notion that all voting has to be secret is just something Management is using to divide and conquer the workers. Same old same old. “

How on earth can a secret ballot be used by Management to “divide and conquer the workers”? That makes absolutely no sense. If anything, it keeps Management from retaliating against workers that vote for unionization.

Why are we capitalizing Management?!? :)

“Who should decide if employees have an election, the workers, or their employers? And if 50 or 60 people are willing to put their names on a petition saying they want a union, what difference does it make if they have a secret ballot election? “

The workers should, under the current system where 30% are required to sign a petition that they would like to hold an election and then 50% +1 need to approve unionization by secret ballot. That eliminates intimidation and retaliation against voters by both employer and employee.

Union members may have intimidated a worker into signing or misrepresented what signing the card means. If they were intimidated into signing the card and don't want to be unionized, they can change their votes on the secret ballot without fear of retaliation from the union leaders. It also goes the other way and people that didn't sign cards for fear of the employer retaliating can vote for unionization with fear of retaliation from the employer.

Bill Fleming said...

A little more history on the bill, Bob. At minimum, you see what it's really all about now, right?

Thanks for the feedback DDC. And don't worry, I won't tell anybody how you're voting on this. ;^)

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/South_Dakota_Vote_by_Secret_Ballot,_Amendment_K_(2010)

DDC said...

I'm not too concerned. :)

As a gesture of good faith from me, I won't tell anyone that you don't back up your positions any better than Mr. Ellis does. ;)

Your link didn't quite copy over:

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/South_Dakota_Vote_by_Secret_Ballot,_Amendment_K_%282010%29

DDC said...

Looks like my link didn't quite carry over either. :(

Bill Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Fleming said...

DDC my positions are backed up as well as they need to be for purposes of my intention here, which was to show Mr. Newland what the Amendment is really all about.

The "secret ballot" aspect of the argument is a red herring, in my opinion. There never has been, nor I predict, will there ever be a bill like Card Check that prohibits a secret ballot.

But FORCING people to ONLY vote by secret ballot — and by no other means is almost certainly unconstitutional. (We'll have to wait until it passes, I suspect, to see if any workers challenge it.)

The rest has to do with how easy or how hard you want it to be for workers to choose to have a union.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it appears to me that you are of the mind that it should be as difficlt as possible.

And I feel just the opposite.

It's okay with me if we don't agree about that.

Especially when we already live in a "right to work" state like SD, where people can be hired and fired at will. So, bottom line, sorry to wuss out on a vigorous exchange here, but I'm really not up for trying to get you to change your mind, my friend.

If you want more substance, you might take a look at Mt. Blogmore's back pages and read some of the superb arguments the poster "Poplicola" put forth there a few months back.

Meanwhile, take good care.

And don't forget to vote.

DDC said...

I don't feel as if unionization should be as difficult as possible, I just feel as if it should be done by secret ballot so that the workers do not feel intimidated by the Union or the employer. If requiring a secret ballot makes it impossible for employees to unionize, that tells me that the employees don't want to unionize.

The amendment only mandates the right for a secret ballot in specific cases. It does not force people to only vote by secret ballot, and to suggest that it does tells me that you either have not read the amendment or that you only care about the union implications.

I'll ask again. Should Dennis Daugaard be allowed to go to state employee's homes with official ballots and demand that those employees vote in front of him?

Why should he be allowed to do that or why shouldn't he be allowed to.



No, you're not going to convince me that card check is a good thing for anyone (other than the ones going around to people's homes with the cards), but you may be able to convince a couple of voters that people should not be guaranteed the right of a secret ballot. I would think that would be enough of a reason for you to make your case.

I just can't wrap my little brain around how a secret ballot keeps people from voting their conscience and forces them to vote for "Management".

DDC said...

I looked for Poplicola on Blogmore and all I found was this:

In a similar vein, "Poplicola" wrote, "Sort of like when the Church refused to admit the Earth is not the center of the universe until the middle of the 19th century."

Bill Fleming said...

DDC, that's okay. I'm getting that maybe you haven't been around many labor disputes, and so, don't really understand what goes on with them.

Card Check IS the WAY workers decide to have elections now. You're not saying they shouldn't have it at all are you? Are you familiar with the mechanics of Labor Law at all, DDC?

The Wagner and Taft/Hartley Acts. NLRB, etc?

Bill Fleming said...

p.s. DDC, strange, I can't find any Poplicola/Blogmore/Card Check stuff either. I think maybe when the RCJ changed their Blog format, etc, it screwed up their searchability. Too bad, his stuff on this issue was really well argued, researched, informative and well documented.

Maybe I can get him to come on here and discuss this with you. I'll try, okay?

DDC said...

I do understand how Card Check currently works and I apologize for speaking in terms of how it would work if/when the EFCA was passed without clarifying that.

I'll describe it in overly-simplified terms for others that may not understand the process.

It currently takes 30% of employees to sign cards stating that they would like to have an election (by secret ballot) as to whether or not to unionize. EFCA would change that so that unionization would automatically happen if 50% of the employees sign the cards. There would be no election.

The reason that unions would like to go this route is because they are losing most of the secret ballot votes. Votes are not usually called when they get 30% of the employees to sign cards, they usually wait until they have at least 50% (usually closer to 60%). The reason they like to get 60% signed is because many workers that sign the cards ultimately vote against unionization in the secret ballot votes.

Why would they vote against it after signing the cards? They may have felt pressured by union leaders to sign (union leaders will often go to worker's homes to have them sign). They also may simply changed their minds in the time in between signing the card and when the vote occurs.

A secret ballot vote protects workers from intimidation by both union leaders and employers. This amendment will protect workers in South Dakota if the Employee Free Choice Act were to become law.

Bill Fleming said...

Good overview, DDC, except you really played down employer intimidation, which, if you research it, you will find is by far the #1 reason the vote changes. The incidences of court decisions against unions vs employers for voter intimidation are orders of magnitude higher for employers. In fact, many of them just budget in the fines as a cost of doing business. "Risk based analysis" I think they call it.

Something tells me you might already know this?

Bill Fleming said...

Here's another link discussion union vs employer intimidation of workers:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/art-levine/new-study-destroys-union_b_197483.html

larry kurtz said...

Bill, is this the thread you are looking for?

ip

Bill Fleming said...

iOne other point DDC left out is that although unionization COULD be automatic if more than 50% of the workers sign the cards, that's not necessarily so. The rule about 30% of the workers wanting a secret ballot election still applies. If 30% of the workers say they WANT to vote by secret ballot, there WILL be a secret ballot election.

Do you see now how management is going for all the marbles?

Say the card check was wildly successful. Say 70% of the workers signed the cards saying they wanted a union. Management could STILL organize the other 30% and trigger a secret ballot vote.

That's why I guess I don't really see any justice in the law. The employer, not the worker, has too much control over the election process.

Keep in mind that I have front line experience with this type of thing in the Ag fields of California organizing field workers for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union.

In those days the fight went a little differently, because that class of workers is excluded from national labor law and have no collective bargaining rights. I got to see, first hand how the employers and the community pulled every string they could think of to keep those folks from having their own union.

Bill Fleming said...

Yes, ip, that's the main one. Good find.

Here's the part I was looking for, by Poplicola:

"But where does the coercion come from? Since the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935, there have been 113 complaints involving coercion in connection with collecting cards. 42 Actually found misconduct from the union. That’s 42. Since 1935. About once every two years.

On the other hand, in 2007 alone, there were 29,559 instances of illegal firings and other employer discrimination against workers for exercising their federally protected labor law rights. And that’s not according to some left wing think tank. Those are statistics put together by the National Labor Relations Board, made up of Bush political appointees. That’s one ever 18 minutes.

Was there a rash of it in 2007? No.

Again, according to annual reports from the Bush Labor Relations Board, the number of employer violations
2006 was 26,824
2005 was 31,358
2004, it was 30,784
2003, it was 23,144.

Clearly, there just isn’t a lot of union intimidation going on. How are unions going to intimidate people? If you come in and scare the crap out of me, I’m sure as hell not voting for you. But, if you have my job, my salary and my benefits in your hand, you’ve got a heck of a lot of power over me."

±±±±±±±±±±

Thanks, Larry!

DDC said...

I'm not sure where those statistics came from, but I suspect at best they are at best cherry-picked misrepresentations of the facts and at worst they are completely made up.

There were only 25,649 total cases received by the NLRB in 2007. That number includes every complaint against employers, every complaint against unions and every representation petition (secret ballot elections, rescinding unions and to amend or clarify). Of those 25,649 cases, 16,291 were allegations against employers ( the rest were complaints against unions). Only 6853 of the cases against employers were allegations of illegal discharge or other discrimination against employees by employers.

My source is the 2007 NLRB Annual Report


So, Poplicola claims that "...in 2007 alone, there were 29,559 instances of illegal firings and other employer discrimination against workers for exercising their federally protected labor law rights." when the actual number of allegations was 6853. I will also note that nearly 60% of all cases received by the NLRB are either withdrawn or are administratively dismissed (about 30% for each of those two categories).

I would be careful in blindly believing statistics cited by an anonymous blogger or blog commentor (including myself). The only place I can find numbers consistent with those that Poplicola is using is on pro-union blogs and the comment sections of blogs and news stories about EFCA. I would love to see the source for the numbers cited by Poplicola.

I also could find absolutely no references to complaints specific to Card Check, so I can only cite the statistics for all complaints to the NLRB. That seems pretty fair though, since Poplicola seems to have included every complaint against employers in the statistics that they cited, real or imagined.



In FY 2009 there were exactly 22,943 unfair labor practice charges filed with the NLRB. There were 16,541 allegations filed against employers and 6,386 against unions. 8,723 of the charges against employers were refusal to bargain complaints (more than half).

So now we're at 7,818 allegations against employers. Of those allegations, 6,411 charges of illegal discharge or "other" discrimination of employees.

Of the 6,386 allegations against unions, 5,017 were for illegal restraint and coercion of employees.

Unions filed 72.1% of the complaints against employers. 88% of the charges against unions were filed by individuals (employees). In other words, individuals filed 5,304 complaints against unions while individuals (and employers, they're lumped together in this statistic. I'm guessing it's a fairly insignificant number) filed 4,613 complaints against employers.

Employers only filed 808 complaints against the unions while other unions filed an additional 275 complaints against other unions.

Out of all of these 22,943 cases, only 36.6% were found have merit by the NLRB.

DDC said...

Now let's get back to changing the rules of Card Check. Labor unions won 63.8 of the 1,619 secret-ballot representation elections held in FY 2009. 96,030 employees were eligible to vote in those elections and 76,964 cast ballots. Unions won (or maintained) bargaining rights for 63,167 employees through those elections.

The unions win 63.8% of the elections that are held. That really doesn't seem like that terribly low of a percentage.


Here are the real statistics, for anyone interested in the facts and not regurgitated false statistics from those with vested pro (or anti) union interests.

NLRB Annual Reports



I have no vested interest on either side of this other than the fact that I am a believer in the right for two people to negotiate privately without the interference of a third party. I am not an employer that is or ever could be impacted by unionization. I own a one-person business and work as an only employee of another.

My experience with unions comes from a job offer that I received from a union shop in MN and a separate discussion that I had with a union representative that wanted to represent the business that I worked for (until he found out it was a family business and that I was the only employee). My interactions with the union that represented the shop that offered me a job really turned me off of unions (and was the main reason that I turned down the job).

I also have a classmate that is a union lawyer in Chicago. To say that she is pro-union is an understatement, but she also opposes changing the rules for Card Check. I've learned a lot about the inner workings of unions from a few discussions with her.

I'm just trying to figure out what the justification is to not guarantee employees the right to vote by secret ballot? How does the use of a secret ballot increase the likelihood of employer intimidation and not increase the likelihood of union intimidation?

Not trying to sound like Mr Ellis, but I'll ask again:

Should Dennis Daugaard be allowed to go to state employee's homes with official ballots and demand that those employees vote in front of him? Why not (or why)?

They seem like pretty simple questions to answer unless you have an agenda that can't be backed up with reason and you only care about the result and not the process.

So, I'll have to agree with Bob when he says "Amendment K; YES (seems fundamental)".

Bill Fleming said...

"Should Dennis Daugaard be allowed to go to state employee's homes with official ballots and demand that those employees vote in front of him? Why not (or why)?"

This isn't a parallel analogy, DDC. Employers don't call for Card Check or Secret ballot elections. The employees do.

I'm really enjoying this conversation, by the way, DDC. Thanks for hanging in there with me on it and for finding the data on NLRB. I'm going to look it over before responding in depth. Later.