Kansans reject amendment to provide that the state constitution does not secure a right to abortion

Kansans rejected an amendment to provide that the state constitution does not secure a right to abortion on August 2. With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote was 58.78% ‘No’ to 41.22% ‘Yes’.

Based on unofficial results, 908,745 people voted on the constitutional amendment compared to 727,360 in the gubernatorial primaries and 718,545 in the U.S. Senate primaries. Turnout on the amendment exceeded overall turnout at the 2018 (457,598) and 2020 (636,032) state primaries.

Democratic voter turnout, relative to total turnout, for the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries were also at their highest since at least 2014.

  • Of those who voted in the gubernatorial primaries, 38% voted in the Democratic primary compared to 33% in 2018 and 20% in 2014.
  • Of those who voted in the U.S. Senate primaries, 35% voted in the Democratic primary compared to 32% in 2018, 24% in 2016, and 20% in 2014.

Kansas is the seventh state to vote on an amendment addressing constitutional interpretation and abortion. These types of amendments are designed to address previous or future state court rulings on abortion that have prevented or could prevent legislatures from passing certain abortion laws. In Kansas, for example, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Bill of Rights provided a state constitutional right to abortion in 2019.

Since 2014, voters in four states – Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia – have approved such amendments. The last state to reject one was Florida in 2012. The next state to vote on this type of amendment is Kentucky on November 8, 2022. 

In Kansas, the Value Them Both PAC led the campaign in support of the amendment. Supporters included U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R) and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R). The campaign received $6.03 million through July 18, including $2.95 million from the Archdiocese of Kansas City.

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom led the campaign in opposition to the amendment. Opponents included Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-3). The campaign received $7.35 million through July 18, including $1.39 from the Sixteen Thirty Fund.

The constitutional amendment was the first abortion-related ballot measure to be decided following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. Both campaigns issued statements placing the amendment within the context of that decision. Value Them Both said, “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas. As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits.” Kansans for Constitutional Freedom said, “The Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe v. Wade. On August 2, Kansas will be the first state in the nation to vote on reproductive freedom following this decision.”

In November, voters will decide on four more abortion-related ballot measures. Beside the constitutional amendment in Kentucky, measures will be on the ballot in California, Montana, and Vermont. Voters in California and Vermont will be the first to decide ballot measures to establish state constitutional rights to abortion. Michigan, where signatures are being verified for an initiated constitutional amendment, could join California and Vermont as well. In Montana, voters will decide a measure to provide that infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons and must receive medical care after an attempted abortion, induced labor, cesarean section, or other method. A campaign in Colorado is collecting signatures for an initiative to prohibit abortion in the state.

Additional reading:

2022 abortion-related ballot measures

History of abortion ballot measures

Election officials in Kansas expect higher voter turnout at Aug. 2 primary due to abortion amendment

On August 2, Kansans will vote on political parties’ nominees for federal and state offices, as well as an amendment to provide that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to create or secure a right to abortion. 

The ballot measure could increase turnout above that for previous midterm primaries in recent years according to Fred Sherman, election commissioner for Johnson County. Sherman said, “We are anticipating an unprecedented or record-breaking voter participation rate for our August primary.” In Sedgwick County, election commissioner Angela Caudillo said, “Typically, elections like this run about 20-30% turnout. We’re expecting potentially 50% turn out.” KCTV 5 reported that officials in Wyandotte County were expecting 40%-45% turnout.

On July 29, the office of Secretary of State Scott Schwab projected that turnout would be around 636,032 or 36% of registered voters. Schwab said, “… abortion is a compelling issue, and there’s strong opinions on both sides. That’s always going to be an issue that some people go and vote for.”

Since 2010, the average non-presidential primary turnout has been 25.6%, with a range of 20.2% in 2014 to 34.2% in 2020. The highest turnout at a midterm primary election during this period was 27.1% in 2018. 

Kansas uses a semi-closed primary for congressional and state-level elections. Voters already affiliated with a political party can participate only in that party’s primary. An unaffiliated voter can declare his or her affiliation with a political party on the day of the election and vote in that party’s primary. However, an unaffiliated voter does not need to declare an affiliation to vote on the constitutional amendment.

In the legislature, sponsors proposed the constitutional amendment as a response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019), which held that the Kansas Bill of Rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy,” including “decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

Kansas is the seventh state where voters will decide on an amendment to provide that the state’s constitution cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. In 1986, Massachusetts was the first state where voters decided, and rejected, this type of constitutional amendment. In Florida, voters rejected an amendment in 2012. Since 2014, voters decided, and approved, similar amendments in four states – Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In November, Kentucky will be the eighth state to vote on this type of constitutional amendment. 

Kansans will vote on the first abortion-related measure on August 2 following SCOTUS ruling

On August 2, Kansans will decide on a constitutional amendment to state that nothing in the Kansas Constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion. It would also say that the legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion. 

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Bill of Rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life—decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The amendment was first introduced during the 2020 legislative session, but it did not receive the necessary votes to make it on the ballot. It was re-introduced in the 2021 legislative session, where it passed each chamber with the necessary two-thirds supermajority vote. The vote was along party lines—Republicans supported and Democrats opposed the amendment.

Value Them Both is leading the campaign in support of the amendment. Following the Dobbs ruling, the campaign said, “The U.S. Supreme Court restored the people’s ability to come to individual consensus on abortion limits — but not in Kansas. As it stands today, unelected judges in Kansas are the ones who will decide the fate of abortion limits. The Value Them Both Amendment is a reasonable approach and will ensure Kansas does not remain a permanent destination for the most extreme and painful abortion procedures.”

The campaign reported over $6 million in contributions as of July 18, 2022. The campaign has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall (R), former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, and the Kansas Catholic Conference. 

Kansans for Constitutional Freedom is leading the campaign in opposition to the amendment. The campaign reported over $7.4 million in contributions. The campaign has received endorsements from Gov. Laura Kelly (D), U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. 

Gov. Kelly (D) said,”[A]nybody who’s been alive in Kansas in the last six months knows that we have an amendment on the primary ballot that would essentially overturn the (state) Supreme Court ruling and say that women’s reproductive rights are not protected under the constitution. If people in the state of Kansas vote no on that amendment, then the status quo will remain. And women’s reproductive rights will remain constitutional here in the state of Kansas.”

In Kansas, abortion is prohibited after 22 weeks, except in cases of life or health endangerment. Kansas also requires a licensed physician to perform an abortion, an ultrasound before, a 24-hour waiting period after state-directed counseling, and parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.

This will be the first vote of at least five abortion-related ballot measures appearing on statewide ballots in 2022. Like Kansas, voters in Kentucky will decide on a constitutional amendment saying that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion.

In California and Vermont, voters will decide on constitutional amendments to provide explicit rights related to abortion. In Vermont, the Legislature placed an amendment on the ballot to provide that individuals have a state constitutional right to personal reproductive autonomy. Currently, the right to an abortion is provided by state statute in Vermont. California voters will see an amendment on their ballots in November that passed the state legislature after the Dobbs ruling. It would provide that the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives. Voters in Michigan could also vote on an initiative providing a state constitutional right to abortion.

Montana voters will decide on a legislatively referred law to require medical care for infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method. It would also classify them as legal persons under state law.

Since 1970, there have been 47 abortion-related ballot measures, and six of these were ballot measures designed to provide that state constitutions cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. Voters approved four (66.7%) and rejected two (33.3%) of these six ballot measures. Amendments were rejected in Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012). Amendments were approved in Alabama (2018), Louisiana (2020), Tennessee (2014), and West Virginia (2018).

In Kansas, most polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time, as Kansas mandates in its state laws that the polls must be open a minimum of 12 hours. Counties may open the polls earlier and close them later.

Additional reading:

Kansas 2022 ballot measures

Previewing Tennessee’s August 4 local ballot measures

Voters in Nashville and Memphis are heading to the polls on August 4 to decide on five amendments to their cities’ charters.

Memphis voters will decide on one charter amendment. If passed, the Memphis measure would increase the term limits of the city council and mayor to three 4-year terms rather than the current two 4-year term limit, allowing them a maximum length in office of 12 years. In 2018, Memphis voters rejected a similar proposal, Ordinance No. 5676, which would have increased the term limits as well. It was defeated by a margin of 60.14% against to 39.86% in favor.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Councilman Martavius Jones support the measure, arguing that another term would allow them to continue their progress and learn more about the mechanics of the offices they hold. Mayor Strickland said, “If the referendum passes, I will run for a third term. Our team has improved city services, and although we have implemented changes that have improved Memphis, there is more to be done and more to fight to achieve.” Michael Nelson, a political analyst for the Memphis-based Action News 5, called the measure a power grab by Memphis officeholders desiring to keep their positions.

Nashville voters will decide on four charter amendments. Charter Amendment 1 would change the number of signatures required for an initiated charter amendment from 10% of votes at the last general election to 10% of registered voters. This would increase the number of required signatures for proposed charter amendments to qualify for the ballot. Additionally, it defines the duties of the Charter Revision Commission, which must review all proposed charter amendments. Metro Councilmember Bob Mendes supports the measure. He said it’s a solution to reduce “litigation costs and uncertainty related to referendums in Nashville.” 

Nashville Charter Amendment 2 would change the physical qualifications for police officers on the Metro Nashville Police. The qualifications are currently based on Army and Navy requirements. MNPD Member Michael Vaughn characterizes them as outdated because the police force is “getting away from being so militaristic.” The Metro Civil Service Commission would designate new standards if the amendment passes.

Nashville Charter Amendment 3 would establish a metropolitan board of health to oversee the metro public health department. It would set new guidelines for who must sit on the board of health, namely, “one doctor, one mental health expert, one nurse, two other medical professionals, and two non-medical professionals.” The chief medical director position would be renamed the director of health. It also would remove the existing requirement for the director of health to be a medical doctor.

Nashville Charter Amendment 4 establishes a city Department of Transportation and a director of transportation in the charter. The department was created a year ago with the adoption of the Metro Nashville Transportation Plan. It replaced the city’s Department of Public Works.

Early voting has begun and ends on July 30. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

New Mexico voters will decide whether to increase funding for early childhood education and public schools

On March 18, the New Mexico State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund. Revenue in the LGPF comes from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. It is currently valued at over $20 billion.

Of the total increased allocation, 60% would go towards early childhood education, and 40% would go toward the public school permanent fund. The amendment defines early childhood education as “nonsectarian and nondenominational education for children until they are eligible for kindergarten.” The amendment would also provide that the allocation would not occur if the balance of the Land Grant Permanent Fund drops below $17 billion. The measure will likely appear on the ballot in November 2022 unless a special election is called for an earlier date.

In New Mexico, both chambers of the New Mexico State Legislature need to approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority during one legislative session to refer the amendment to the ballot. This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) on January 19, 2021. On February 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 1 in a vote of 44-23 with three absent. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed it in a vote of 26-16. Both votes were largely along party lines. New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta.

The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Antonio Maestas, Javier Martínez, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, Georgene Louis, and Senator Pete Campos (D). 

Sen. Leo Jaramillo (D), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Studies show that pre-kindergarten and other programs for kids 5 and under later pay off with higher high school graduation rates and fewer incarcerations.”

Sen. Bill Sharer (R), who opposes the amendment, said, “Each time we tap into it, we harm that compound interest,” he said of the endowment. “Each time we do that, sometime in the future we are somehow harming children.”

Similar amendments were introduced during the last six legislative sessions but did not pass both chambers of the state legislature.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.

Additional Reading:

Kentucky legislature certifies amendment to authorize changes to legislative session end dates and special sessions

On March 15, the Kentucky State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters in November 2022 that would authorize the legislature to change legislative session end dates through a three-fifths vote in each chamber. It would also authorize the House speaker and Senate president to jointly call a special legislative session for up to 12 days. Currently, the state legislature can only be called into a special session by the governor.

The amendment would remove specific legislative session end dates from the constitution and instead provide that odd-year sessions are limited to 30 legislative days and even-year sessions are limited to 60 legislative days. The amendment would also add that no law would take effect until July 1 in the year it was approved or 90 days after it is signed by the governor, whichever is later. Currently, the state constitution states that laws take effect 90 days after the legislative session in which it was passed adjourns.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 4 (HB 4) on January 5, 2021. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60 percent vote is required in both the Kentucky State Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives. The House passed the bill by a vote of 77-16, with seven members not voting, on January 7, 2021. The state Senate passed a different version of the bill on March 1, 2021, in a vote of 31-4, with three members not voting. The House concurred on March 15, 2021.

Republican House Speaker David Osborne, the sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we’re going to be here, then let’s be as effective as we can possibly be. Let’s be as efficient as we can possibly be. … We don’t want to fall into that trap of becoming a full-time legislature. We need to honor the intent of our service as a part-time legislature.”

From 1995 to 2020, 12 measures appeared on the ballot in Kentucky, of which, 10 were approved and two were defeated.

Additional Reading:

New York voters to decide constitutional amendment about environmental rights in November

Voters in New York will decide a ballot measure to add a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The ballot measure would make New York the third state, after Pennsylvania and Montana, to adopt an environmental rights amendment. Pennsylvania and Montana both adopted their amendments in the 1970s.

In New York, a constitutional amendment requires approval in two successive legislation sessions to go on the ballot. Legislators approved the proposal in 2019 and 2021. On January 12, 2021, the state Senate voted 48 to 14 to approve the amendment. Senate Democrats supported the proposal, and Senate Republicans were divided 6 to 14. On February 8, the state Assembly voted 124 to 25, with support from all Democrats, 17 Republicans, and the chamber’s one Independence Party member.

The 15-word constitutional amendment reads: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”

State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-31) sponsored the proposal in the Senate. He said, “This language will finally put in place safeguards that require the government to consider the environment and our relationship to the Earth in decision making. If the government fails in that responsibility, New Yorkers will finally have the right to take legal action for a clean environment because it will be in the State Constitution.”

State Sen. Dan Stec (R-45), who voted against the constitutional amendment, stated, “I’m all for clean air and clean water. Who isn’t? But in the face of ambiguity you will have distrust, you will have lawsuits, you will have costs, and I’m trying to avoid that.”

The election on November 2, 2021, could feature as many as six amendments to the New York Constitution. The Environmental Rights Amendment is the second approved for the ballot after legislators referred a redistricting measure on January 20, 2021. Since 1995, New Yorkers have approved 76.0% (19 of 25) of the constitutional amendments that have appeared on their ballots.

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Kansas voters will decide an amendment in 2022 saying there is no right to abortion in the state constitution

The Kansas State Legislature referred the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment to the August 2, 2022, primary ballot. The amendment will reverse a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled that the Kansas Bill of Rights granted a right to abortion. The amendment would add a section to the Kansas Bill of Rights to state that constitution does not provide a right to abortions and the government is not required to provide funding for abortions. The new section would also add that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws to regulate abortion.

In Kansas, a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Kansas State Legislature during one legislative session is required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. This amounts to 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate.

On January 22, 2021, the state House passed HCR 5003 with a vote of 86 to 38 with one absent. All Republicans voted in favor of the amendment, and all but one Democrat that was absent voted against it. The one Independent in the House voted against the amendment as well.

The measure was introduced in the state Senate on January 21, 2021. The state Senate passed the amendment on January 28, 2021, in a vote of 28-11 with one absent. All 11 Democrats voted against the amendment. One Republican was absent, and the remaining 28 Republicans approved the amendment. Proponents refer to the measure as the “Value Them Both Amendment.”

The same amendment was introduced during the 2020 legislative session. After receiving a two-thirds vote in the state Senate, the state House voted 80-43 on the measure, four votes under the required two-thirds.

As of January 2021, court rulings had determined that at least 10 state constitutions provided a state constitutional right to abortion according to The Guttmacher Institute. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. The most recent measure was approved in Louisiana in November 2020 with 61.1% of the vote. Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), and West Virginia (2018) also previously approved measures to declare no right to an abortion in their respective state constitutions. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), similar constitutional amendments were defeated.

From 1995 through 2020, the Kansas Legislature referred ten constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved eight and rejected two of the referred amendments.

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Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rules that 2019 Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated state constitution

Judge gavel on desk

On January 7, 2021, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law, a type of crime victims’ rights amendment, violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. Pennsylvanians voted 74% to 26% in favor of Marsy’s Law at the election on November 5, 2019. Results were never certified, however, according to a court order.

The 3-2 appellate court decision stated that the proposal violated the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” Judge Ellen Ceisler (D) wrote the majority’s opinion, which ruled that Marsy’s Law would impact separate rights and provisions of the state constitution.

Judge Patricia McCullough (R), who agreed with the majority’s decision but wrote a separate opinion, stated that the measure contained “laudable and salutary provisions” but “simply embraces too many disparate matters to effectively convey its import to voters within the 75 words mandated by statute.”

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt (R) dissented, stating that Marsy’s Law created constitutional rights for crime victims without changing existing provisions of the state constitution. Judge Leavitt wrote, “The judgment the court enters today deprives the people of this power on the strength of no more than speculation.”

Jennifer Riley, director of the organization Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, responded to the Commonwealth Court’s decision, saying, “We are prepared to continue advocating for victims and to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court to ensure that the votes of Pennsylvanians are counted and that the voices of the victims are protected.”

In Pennsylvania, constitutional amendments need to be passed by the state Legislature during two successive legislative sessions. In 2018, both chambers unanimously passed the amendment. In 2019, the state Senate unanimously passed the amendment, and 190 of 202 state representatives voted for it. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) supported the ballot measure, as did the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and U.S. Reps. Fred Keller (R) and Scott Perry (R).

Opponents included the ACLU of Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania raised $6.65 million from the Marsy’s Law for All Foundation to campaign for the measure.

Marsy’s Law ballot measures faced similar lawsuits in state courts in Kentucky and Montana. The amendment was struck down in Montana for violating the state’s separate-vote requirement on constitutional amendments. In Kentucky, after it was struck down for reasons related to ballot language, the state Legislature placed it on the ballot again in 2020. The 2020 version, which was approved, included the full text of the measure on the ballot.

As of January 2021, 12 states had Marsy’s Law amendments. Voters in two additional states—Pennsylvania and Montana—voted in favor of Marsy’s Law amendments, but they were overturned or blocked. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., started campaigning for Marsy’s Law to increase the rights and privileges of victims in state constitutions. Marsy’s Law is named after Nicholas’ sister, Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered in 1983.

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Illinois Gov. Pritzker and Citadel CEO Griffin are funding the campaigns surrounding the state’s graduated income tax ballot measure

Over $107 million has been raised for and against a constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax in Illinois. On November 3, voters will decide the constitutional amendment, which wouldn’t require a graduated income tax itself. Rather, the amendment would repeal the state constitution’s requirement that the state personal income tax is a flat rate. In 2019, the Illinois State Legislature passed a bill that would enact a graduated income tax with six brackets should voters approve the amendment.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker advocated for a graduated income tax on the campaign trail in 2018. Through October 2, Pritzker provided $56.50 million, or 96 percent, of the support campaign’s $59.00 million. “People like me should pay more and people like you should pay less,” said Pritzker.

Opponents of the constitutional amendment have organized several PACs, which together raised $58.69 million through October 2. Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the investment firm Citadel, contributed $46.75, or 96 percent, of the opposition campaign’s total funds. Griffin said a graduated income tax would mean “the continued exodus of families and businesses, loss of jobs and inevitably higher taxes on everyone.”

Pritzker and Griffin have each provided 96 percent of their respective side’s total campaign funds. On the support side, other top donors include the AARP ($674,445), the Omidyar Network ($500,000), and the National Education Association ($350,000). On the opposition side, other top donors include the Illinois Opportunity Project ($550,000), Duchossois Group Executive Chair Craig Duchossois ($200,000), and Petco Petroleum CEO Jay Bergman ($200,000).

Of the 128 statewide ballot measures in 2020, the Illinois constitutional amendment has the second-largest sum of contributions to its support and opposition campaign. In September, The Chicago Tribute reported that the Illinois constitutional amendment “is expected to be the most expensive ballot proposition debate in Illinois history.”

The most expensive in the country for 2020 is California Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors. The combined support and opposition campaign contributions exceeded $200 million on October 2. Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Doordash, and Postmates provided $186.19 million to the campaign supporting Proposition 22. Opposing PACs received $13.91 million through October 2, with top funders including labor unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, SEIU-UHW West, and Service Employees International Union.

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