Posted on November 14, 2013
Employee Rights Act Would Significantly Reform Labor Laws for the First Time in More Than 50 Years, Level the Playing Field for American Workers
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 – U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), current member and former Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), current Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, introduced legislation today to significantly reform labor laws for the first time in more than 50 years to improve worker rights. The Employee Rights Act gives workers the freedom to choose to unionize or not and be free from intimidation or retribution for their choice, mandates a secret ballot in elections on whether to form a union, requires unions to be periodically recertified via a secret-ballot vote, prevents “quickie” elections, prevents employees’ dues and fees from being used for political activities without their consent, and takes other important steps to level the playing field for workers against powerful labor unions. The Employee Rights Act is cosponsored by 22 of Hatch and Alexander’s Senate colleagues.
“This isn’t a Republican or a Democrat issue – this is a matter of fairness and basic worker rights,” Hatch said. “Employees should have the right to join a union or not, and they should be able to decide without being fearful of that decision. They should be able to cast a ballot in secret, just like Americans do at ballot boxes across the country. If there is turnover in the workforce, there should be vote to determine if the union still has the support of current employees. Workers also deserve a say in how their union spends their dues and whether to go on strike. This common-sense bill takes critical steps in giving individual workers the rights they deserve.”
“The single biggest problem facing the American worker today is a persistently high unemployment rate, and yet union leaders insist on further weakening workers’ opportunities,” said Alexander. “This bill empowers employees by giving them a say in whether or not they want to join and pay dues to a union, ensuring the privacy of that decision and allowing employees to opt out of having all of their personal contact information and work schedule shared with union organizers.”
In addition to Hatch and Alexander, the Employee Rights Act is supported by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R -Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga.) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Below is a summary of provisions in the Employee Rights Act as introduced by Hatch and Alexander:
- Secret Ballot Elections
- Guarantee employees the right to a secret ballot election when deciding whether to join a union.
- Union Recertification Elections
- Require that all unionized workplaces with employee turnover exceeding 50 percent to hold secret ballot elections to determine whether a majority of employees still want to be represented by the union.
- Paycheck Protection
- Prevent unions from using employees’ dues and fees for purposes unrelated to their bargaining functions – including political contributions and expenditures – without an the employees’ written consent.
- Secret Ballot Strike Votes
- Give employees the right to a secret ballot vote before union leaders can order a strike.
- Prevent “Quickie” or “Snap” Elections
- Negate the recent regulatory effort at the NLRB to unfairly expedite union elections by preventing unions from obtaining employees’ private information and ensuring due process in determining issues such as the appropriate bargaining unit and eligibility of individuals.
- Prevent Union Coercion
- Allow employees to collect lost wages, illegally collected union dues, and/or liquidated damages from a union that interferes with their rights under the NLRA, including the right to petition for decertification of the union.
- Impose a procedural penalty on unions that interfere with the filing of a decertification petition.
- Criminalize Union Threats
- Strengthen prohibitions on the use or threat of violence for achieving purposes related to unionization and collective bargaining.
- This would resolve the loopholes created by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Enmons, which effectively exempted unions from federal anti-racketeering statutes.
- Eliminates Needless Disparities
- Conform and make equal the definition of an “unfair labor practice” on the part of a union with that of an employer.
- Allow every employee in a represented bargaining unit – regardless of union membership status – to have the same rights as union members to vote on the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement or to engage in strike or work stoppage.
- Require unions to provide audited financial statements to agency fee payers.