Protect Labor Law’s Balance between Workers’ and Employers’ Rights

Monday, January 1, 2018 - 9:00am

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) established a careful balance between workers’ and employers’ rights.  Unfortunately, new legislation, the so-called “WAGE Act,” would undermine that balance and put the interests of labor unions ahead of those of employers and workers.

Summary:

In December 2017, a bill was introduced in Congress that is essentially a wish list of long-standing union priorities. The so-called “Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act,” (H.R. 4548) aims to reverse the decades-long decline in union membership by running roughshod over the rights of workers and employers established under federal labor law.  Several of the bill’s most controversial proposals include:

  • Card Check: The Wage Act would effectively ban secret ballot elections when workers decide whether to form a union. Workers could first vote using secret ballots, but if the union loses and makes an allegation of employer “interference,” the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could simply ignore the results and rely exclusively on signature cards instead. This “card check” process is fraught with potential for intimidation by union organizers.
  • Ambush Elections: The Wage Act would cement into law the NLRB’s “ambush” election rule, under which union elections can take place in as few as 10 days. This means that elections can take place before workers have time to consider the pros and cons of unionizing and even before it’s determined who is eligible to vote. The ambush election rule also forces employers to turn over a great deal of private information about their workers to union organizers.
  • Mandatory Contracts: The Wage Act would impose a government-dictated contract if a union and an employer cannot agree to deal within a limited 90-day window. That means that a government arbitrator would determine workers' level of pay, benefits and work rules.  Workers could get stuck with a contract they don’t like, but worse, employers could get stuck with a contract they can’t afford.
  • Dragging Innocent Parties into Labor Disputes:  The Wage Act would legalize so-called “secondary” boycotts against companies that have no relationship to a labor dispute. The mere fact that they may be a vendor of a company targeted by unions would be enough to authorize disruptive pickets, protests, and work stoppages—creating havoc in local communities and the wider economy.
  • Abolishing Right-to-Work: Associated legislation would abolish all state right to work laws. The 28 states that have passed these laws would see them invalidated. Once again, workers all over the country would have to pay union dues whether they like it or not just to keep their jobs.

The current Congress is unlikely to take up the “WAGE Act.”  However, unions hope that a more sympathetic Congress will make this bill a top priority. Introduction of the Wage Act is the first step in that process.

Congress should:

  • Reject all efforts to pass bills like the so-called “WAGE Act,” both in this Congress and in the future.
  • Protect the careful balance established by the NLRA.