In-Depth: Rep. David Roe (R-TN) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to ensure all workers are allowed to make their own independent decisions with regards to union membership:
“If we really want to protect workers’ rights, we should ensure workers receive all relevant information on how unions affect them, and then trust them to make a decision in their own best interest. That’s why I am proud to reintroduce this commonsense measure to ensure a transparent and fair workplace. Having grown up in a union household, I recognize the purpose unions have served. Today, labor union membership is half of what it was in the 1980s, and only 11 percent of the workforce is currently made up by union members. It’s clear there are reasons so many workers are choosing not to form unions. While House Democrats’ proposals take power away from workers, the ERA will restore workers’ faith in unions because it is neither pro- nor anti-union. It will simply make unions more accountable to the workers they serve. I thank Leader Foxx for her support and for her focus on policies that benefit workers.”
When he introduced this bill in the 115th Congress, Rep. Roe said:
“The rights of American workers were under attack during the Obama presidency, and it is time to restore those rights and work to foster a pro-growth, pro-employee environment. This legislation will ensure individuals’ rights are upheld when considering whether or not they wish to join a union. The Employee Rights Act isn’t pro- or anti-union, it’s a commonsense measure to ensure a transparent and fair workplace. I am proud to introduce this instrumental piece of legislation that will protect and promote the rights of America’s workers.”
In a joint op-ed in the Washington Examiner, Rep. Roe and Washington Examiner contributor Akash Chougule wrote:
“Change is desperately needed to bring unions into the 21 st century and make them more responsive to the workers they represent. The Employee Rights Act would provide the most comprehensive update to federal labor law since the NLRA and would put power back in the hands of workers… Just as labor law has remain unchanged for decades, so too have many unions. Fully 94 percent of workers represented by a union today never voted for that union to represent them. They either voted no, or, more commonly, they simply inherited a union that was voted in decades ago. The Employee Rights Act would fix this by requiring periodic referendums asking workers if they wish to remain represented by their current union, ensuring unions remain accountable to the workers they represent. Moreover, the process by which workers vote to unionize needs to be brought in line with the way Americans vote for just about everything else, which is by secret ballot… The Employee Rights Act states that unions must receive support from a majority of all workers in the bargaining unit in a federally supervised secret paper ballot election, which ensures that the choice to join a union is freely made and unions have the support of a true majority of workers… Other commonsense reforms, like employee privacy protections and new safeguards against violence and threats, will help prevent the unions' most egregious abuses. The Employee Rights Act is not anti-union legislation. Rather, it seeks to address many of the problems that have made unions fall out of favor with workers, from unwanted political spending to worker coercion.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) adds:
“The American worker, regardless of his or her profession, is the driving force behind American innovation. We need labor law reform that recognizes this fact and empowers the individual American worker. The ERA is the result of Rep. Roe’s tireless focus and dedication to finding solutions that will modernize outdated and old-fashioned labor laws to increase accountability and transparency for labor unions. I’m proud to cosponsor the ERA and call on all Members of Congress who believe in strengthening the American workforce to embrace these reforms.”
Heritage Action expressed support for this bill in the 115th Congress. David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow in Labor Markets and Trade in the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, said:
“All union members deserve the protection of secret ballots and reasonable choice over who represents them. Ninety-four percent of union members are represented by unions for whom they never voted. Let the dues-payers decide whether their union is an effective advocate for them or not. Competent, worker-focused union leadership has nothing to fear from members' freedom to choose."
The Center for American Progress Action Fund argues that this bill would hurt working Americans by making it harder to organize and sustain unions:
“Banning workers from unionizing through collecting authorization cards and securing voluntary recognition from their employer—as the recently reintroduced Employee Rights Act by Rep. David Roe (R-TN) does—would be a major blow to workers’ rights. These kinds of so-called secret ballot reforms would lock workers in to the undemocratic system laid out earlier in this brief would and require more workers to suffer through the unfair election system to try to gain a voice at work… The Employee Rights Act would require that more than 50 percent of all workers support the union, rather than 50 percent of workers that vote in a union election, and thus count nonvoters as votes against unionization. Redefining ‘majority’ in NLRB would be a radical change that would serve to preserve today’s status quo of unorganized workplaces… [T]he Employee Rights Act would also require new union elections every three years, or sooner upon the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, if more than 50 percent of the bargaining unit did not vote in the original union election. This would mean that instead of coming to the bargaining table to decide on the next contract, employers would be once again able to subject their employees to an onslaught of anti-union campaigning. In an especially clear demonstration of the anti-union intention of the bill, unlike a recognition election, these mandatory elections to decertify a workplace union would only require a majority of votes cast—not a majority of bargaining unit members. In other words, workers would face a higher electoral bar to form a union than employers would face to break a union. And while union workplaces would face automatic elections to eliminate a union, nonunion workplaces would not conversely have automatic elections to form a union… The Employee Rights Act would also provide a host of other anti-union provisions outside of the election process.”
This legislation has 34 Republican cosponsors in the 116th Congress. Last Congress, it had 154 Republican House cosponsors. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), had 31 Republican Senate cosponsors.
Of Note: Three provisions of this bill — secret ballots, the opt-in requirement, and union recertification elections — polled at higher than 71% among union households. They also polled with 80%-plus support across Democratic, Republican, Hispanic-American, and Independent households.
In the 2016 election cycle, labor unions donated over $132 million to super PACs and spent an additional $35 million on federal elections, with funds going overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates and groups. Three major unions alone — the AFL-CIO, National Education Association (NEA), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — respectively contributed $14.6 million, $18.1 million, and $19 million to super PACs.
Additionally, over the period 1990-2010, 93% of the National Education Association’s (NEA) donations from its political action committees and individual officers went to Democrats. However, in a 2010 report, the NEA reported that only 41% of public school teachers are Democrats. Observing this, the Wall Street Journal called the NEA a “honey pot for left-wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers, much less students.”
In some previous elections, unions have spent their members’ dues on political objectives that are at odds with their memberships’ views. For example, in 2000, California unions spent $88,000 (including $68,000 from public employee unions) on opposition Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. However, a Los Angeles Times exit poll found that 58% of union households voted for the measure. Additionally, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter, California unions spent $32.7 million (including $25.7 million from public employee unions) to oppose the recall for former Gov. Gray Davis (a Democrat), but exit polls found that half of union members voted for the recall and 56% voted for a Republican candidate to replace Davis (43% for Arnold Schwarzenegger and 13% for Tom McClintock).
Unions have also spent money on Democratic presidential candidates not favored by their membership. In 1992, the Teamsters spent $56 million supporting the Clinton-Gore campaign. Meanwhile, an independent outside poll the union paid for showed that its membership preferred Perot, then Bush, then Clinton in that order (so Clinton was Teamsters’ members’ bottom choice for president).
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / SeventyFour)