Michael Billet Michael Billet
Director, Policy Research, Employment Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


July 19, 2018


With the economy kicking intohigh gear, it seems an odd time for a handful of legislators to introduce a bill that would throw a wrench into the gears. But that seems to be exactly what happened with a recentlyintroducedpiece of legislation that amounts to little more than organized labor’s (quite extensive) wish-list.

At first glance, the bill’s title, theWorkers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act, implies that the proposal seeks to encourage management and employees to negotiate over working conditions, which seems reasonable—of course, they can already do so. But, a deep dive of the bill reveals that the legislation is just a sop to the labor movement.

Indeed, the legislation goes way beyond addressing negotiations and is laden with gifts to unions more suitable for the proverbial Christmas morning, just six months early.

Included in the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act are some oldies but goodies right out of labor’s playbook such as:

  • Imposingbinding arbitrationwhen there is an impasse between management and unions during first contract negotiations—in other words, allowing a government bureaucrat to dictate the terms of a contract, depriving employers—and workers—any choice.
  • Allowing workers to engage insecondary strikeand picketing activities that would drag unrelated third party businesses into a dispute between an employer and union.
  • Attaching personal financial liability to corporate officers if there are violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), even if that individual was not associated with the violation.
  • Codifying the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB)ambush electionrule into law.
  • Authorizing a private right of action in federal court rather than relying on the NLRB to handle unfair labor practice charges.
  • Reinstating the NLRB’sposting regulationthat wasstruck downby the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
  • Overruling the Supreme Court’s decision inEpic Systems v. Lewis, which would encourage class action lawsuits.
  • Restoring theFair Pay and Safe WorkplacesExecutive Order that would allow government contractors to be debarred based only on unproven allegations.
  • Redefining the definition of “supervisor,” upending the long-established balance between labor and management in the workplace.
  • Abolishing state right-to-work laws so that workers are forced to pay union dues to keep their jobs.

That’s not even the complete list and it tracks closely with congressional Democrats’ cynically named “Better Deal” released last fall. Such heavy-handed regulation has harmful economic consequences, but that concern seem less important than bringing an early Christmas gift to organized labor. To the economy and the rights of workers and employers, however, the sponsors of the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act say “Bah! Humbug!”

About the authors

Michael Billet

Michael Billet

Michael Billet, director of policy research for Employment Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, keeps members and internal Chamber policy staff abreast of pending labor, immigration, and health care legislation, as well as federal regulatory and subregulatory activities. He is also responsible for planning the Chamber’s annual workplace and community wellness forum.

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