Will the Senate Allow a Federal Agency to Overturn Labor Laws?

The Senate continues to debate S.J.RES.30, the “resolution of disapproval” by Sen. Isakson (R-GA) under the Congressional Review Act to prevent the National Mediation Board (NMB) from unilaterally changing the way labor unions can be formed under the Railway Labor Act.

Sen. Isakson (R-GA) took to the Senate floor to explain why he and so many of his colleagues have found it necessary to stop yet another attempt by an Executive Branch agency to rewrite labor law. The Senator rightfully points out in his remarks on the Senate floor that this rule change by the NMB would allow the will of the few to determine whether or not an entire workforce be represented by a labor union. He also pointed out that the Railway Labor Act doesn’t provide the same type of union decertification methods available to employees under the National Labor Relations Act, the law that covers most private sector employees. In essence, this means that should the NMB’s new rule be allowed to stand, a small group of employees that are able to participate in a NMB union election would be able to allow a labor union to be the exclusive representative of employees in perpetuity.

Many opponents of the measures claim that the NMB rule is appropriate by trying to draw parallels to other elections, such as those for U.S. Senate. Well, if the same logic is applied to the Senate that would mean that voters would elect Senators for life without a real opportunity to recall their Senator. Additionally, as Sen. Isakson notes, because the resolution needs 60 votes to invoke cloture to move forward, a Senator who doesn’t participate in the vote is essentially declaring a “no” vote much like the way NMB union elections are currently handled.

Earlier this week the National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to the Senate in support of the resolution highlighting an important point:

The Senate should disapprove this rule by supporting S.J.RES. 30, as it would harm positive employee relations and sets a disturbing precedent for other federal labor boards like the National Labor Relations Board. More importantly, we believe the NMB is circumventing the proper role of Congress in setting our nation’s labor laws on a level playing field to protect the rights of those who wish to be represented by a labor union and those who do not.

The Senate will be voting on the resolution shortly. The Senators who support the resolution will be voting to protect the rights of employees who do not necessarily wish to have a labor union represent them before their employer. Conversely, Senators who object to the resolution will be voting to allow unelected federal officials to change the rules of union elections – a change that should only be considered by Congress.

UPDATE: (1:54pm) The Senate has answered the question that we posed earlier: “Yes, we will continue to allow the executive branch to overturn our labor laws by rewriting the rules on how a labor union is formed.” The Senate voted 43 for – 56 against the resolution earlier today. Three Democratic Senators: Lincoln (AR), Pryor (AR) and Nelson (NE) joined with 40 Republicans to support the resolution. The motion required 60 votes to move forward in the Senate. Click here for the vote breakdown.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • if unions are given the authority to negotiate for all tradespeople, whether they are in agreement or not, then the financial burdens will be imposed on both labor and management in a prime example of ‘taxation without representation’. It is misleading for the unions to claim to be representing any interests other than their own.

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