Protecting Liberty? State Secret Ballot Initiatives in the Shadow of Preemption and Federalism


Commendably, a number of states have recently approved initiatives to protect workers’ right to participate in a secret ballot election before a labor union can represent them. Reifying liberty and the anti-subordination principle, state secret ballot initiatives prioritize employee protection over national uniformity. At the same time progressive scholarship offers potentially useful arguments concerning the need to relax existing labor preemption rules. These arguments may encourage future state and local regulatory diversity and provide an environment conducive to the acceptance and expansion of all sorts of proposals that are protective of workers’ liberty interests.

Optimism about the possibility of doctrinal convergence between the efforts of progressive and classical liberals ought to be tempered; this move is riven with the risk that constraining preemption doctrine may further constrain workers’ freedom and liberty since there is also a corresponding move afoot that favors federalization, centralization and uniformity and can be explained by the pursuit of self-interested rents.