GOP Congressmen Propose Bill Trashing Labor Law, Workers’ Rights

Maybe it was only just a matter of time, but Congress’ ruling Republicans, not content with picking off workers’ rights one by one, are launching a concerted effort to trash federal labor law – and workers’ rights – wholesale.

Leaders are Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the #4 Republican on the ideologically polarized House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., both from deep-red, union-hostile states. Roe frequently authors anti-worker and anti-union measures.

If they succeed, Roe, Isakson and their colleagues would accomplish the most-comprehensive – but worst, from workers’ point of view – rewrite of the National Labor Relations Act since the GOP-run Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over Democratic President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947.  Taft-Hartley gutted many NLRA protections.

Isakson’s bill deals with one issue: He would outlaw what the GOP calls “micro-unions,” where a 2011 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling lets unions organize groups of workers within a plant, in lieu of the whole plant. He has Republican leadership support.

“The National Labor Relations Board decided to tip the scales in favor of unions, rather than allowing employees and managers within an organization to negotiate to best meet the needs of customers and workers alike,” Isakson charged.

Roe’s so-called “Employee Rights Act,” goes a lot farther.

The Tennessean would not only outlaw card-check recognition of unions, but would create a national “right to work” law. And Roe would let “free riders” – the RTW users who don’t have to pay one red cent for union services – vote in union elections.

Other specifics of Roe’s legislation include:


            • Banning card-check recognition of unions, even when they achieve a signed majority election authorization cards in a workplace.  Roe would allow secret-ballot votes, only.


            • Requiring the union, in those secret-ballot votes, win an outright majority of all workers, not just of those voting. The GOP inserted a similar provision, over union and worker objections, in the Railway Labor Act, which covers airline and rail workers, several years ago.


            • If a bargaining unit grows by at least 50 percent after the contract is signed, the NLRB must conduct a new union certification election there within 110-120 days of the end of the contract or within three years of the contract’s signing, whichever is earlier. Though Roe does not use the word, the bill’s language makes clear that it would be a decertification vote to throw the union out. 

            • Employers will have to furnish only names and home addresses of workers to unions that submit enough cards to petition for an election – and anyone can ask the boss to be kept off the list. The NLRB’s rules call for turnover of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, too.  And Roe would overturn another recent NLRB rule, and order the agency to solve all company election challenges to the campaign and to workers’ eligibility before the vote can occur.


            • ‘‘Any labor organization found to have interfered with, restrained, or coerced employees in the exercise of their rights…to form or join a labor organization or to refrain therefrom, including the filing a decertification petition, shall be liable for wages lost and union dues or fees collected unlawfully, if any, and an additional amount as liquidated damages.” The union found guilty in that case during a decert drive can’t file objections to the vote, either.


            • Unless workers “opt in” in writing for using their money for other purposes, the union can’t use their “dues, fees, assessments or other contributions” for anything other than collective bargaining and administering contracts – i.e. handling grievances.


            • Strikes are banned unless “a majority of all represented unit employees affected, determined by a secret ballot vote conducted by a neutral, private organization,” votes for them. That balloting would include the free riders. And the workers would be forced to vote, at the union’s expense, on the employer’s last offer, before taking a strike vote.


            • Anyone convicted of using “force or violence” during an organizing drive, or threatening to would face a $100,000 fine, 10 years in jail, or both. Current labor law penalties against employers are far smaller and have no jail time.  


Roe alleged Democratic President Barack Obama attacked workers rights, in favor of unions. He claimed his bill would “foster a pro-growth, pro-employee environment,” adding his bill "will ensure individuals' rights are upheld when considering whether or not they wish to join a union.”

Roe’s new measure tracks anti-worker planks in the 2016 GOP platform. His similar, but less-comprehensive, rewrites of the nation’s basic labor law in the last three Congresses went nowhere because Republicans knew Obama would veto them. But new Republican President Donald Trump is another story. He backs RTW, but has yet to comment on the overall labor law rewrite that Roe has authored, or on Isakson’s anti-micro unions bill.

Co-lead sponsors of Roe’s scheme are Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. – the infamous shouter of “You lie!” at Obama’s health care speech -- and  Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Rob Woodall, R-Ga., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C.