Democrats' reconciliation bill denies employees choice in the workplace
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • 2 weeks ago • 11 comments
By: James Sherk (MSN)
On Labor Day, the public celebrates workers' dignity. Ironically, Congress will soon consider legislation denying workers a say in how they communicate with their employers. Sen. Bernie Sanders has committed to including the PRO Act in the reconciliation bill. One of the PRO Act's provisions would eliminate a safeguard that protects workers' agency: the federal ban on secondary boycotts and strikes.
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Federal labor law is premised on giving workers agency, empowering them to decide how to deal with their employers. The law protects workers' rights to speak to their employers collectively through union representatives. It also protects their right not to unionize and instead deal directly with their employer. The fundamental principle of existing federal labor law is the worker decides, and the federal government protects their freedom to choose.
Secondary boycotts and strikes are inherently anti-worker.
Secondary strikes occur when a union strikes to prevent its employer from doing business with a second company the union wants to organize. As a hypothetical, imagine the United Auto Workers has unionized General Motors. In a secondary strike, the UAW would strike GM if it purchased parts from nonunion suppliers or provided vehicles to nonunion dealerships. The strike would last until GM stopped working with those companies or the workers became unionized.
Secondary strikes are incredibly powerful organizing tools. They allow unions to leverage organizing one company into unionizing all firms that do significant businesses with that company. In the above example, the part suppliers and dealership would need to unionize to stay afloat.
But secondary strikes and boycotts are also hugely coercive to workers. Secondary strikes turn workers into pawns on an economic chessboard. These strikes put an economic gun to workers' heads, telling them they must join a particular union or lose their job when their company goes under. Workers can still vote on whether to unionize and which union to join. However, if they do not join the specific union pressuring their company, their firm may go bankrupt, and they may become unemployed. Joining the union thus becomes an offer they can't refuse or a bullet they must bite.
Secondary actions take the choice about unionizing out of workers' hands.
This is precisely why federal law has prohibited them since 1947 when Congress voted overwhelmingly to outlaw secondary strikes and boycotts. Congressional debate featured stories of constituents forced to unionize through secondary actions. Members of Congress supported the right to unionize, but they wanted workers to make that decision.
As Pennsylvania Sen. Ed Martin explained: "I recognize labor's right to strike to obtain relief from grievances, [but] I am opposed to … secondary boycotts. …. I believe the American workingman should be protected in his right to work freely at the job of his choice."
Federal law allows union workers to strike to raise their own pay. But under current law, unions cannot use secondary actions to force other employees to unionize. Unions must persuade those workers to join voluntarily. This system puts workers in the driver's seat.
So why is Sanders trying to eliminate labor protections that have lasted almost 75 years? Because union membership has fallen significantly over the past generation. Unions have not been able to organize enough workers to replace members lost at bankrupt companies. While unions represented a quarter of the workforce in the 1970s, they now represent just 1 in 10 employees.
Unions want the PRO Act to reverse this decline. Legalizing secondary strikes would certainly boost their membership. But it would come at a terrible cost: abandoning the principle that employees decide who represents them.
James Sherk is the director of the Center for American Freedom at the America First Policy Institute. He previously served as a special assistant to the president in the Domestic Policy Council at the White House during the Trump administration.
Tags:Opinion, Op-Eds, Unions, Labor, Congress, Bernie Sanders
Original Author:James Sherk
Original Location:Democrats' reconciliation bill denies employees choice in the workplace