Every employee and prospective employee should be guaranteed the freedom—without intimidation or coercion from any source—to join or not join a labor organization. Choosing to form or join a union can be a life-altering decision, and membership comes with trade-offs that can make that decision deeply personal. Both employees and employers benefit when employees can make an educated and private decision about union membership without fear of coercion. That is why we oppose the so-called Workplace Democracy Act (WDA), introduced in the House as H.R. 5728 by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and in the Senate as S. 2810 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
This bill does nothing to protect freedom of choice, promote education or provide privacy to employees making personal decisions about workplace rights. It would reclassify many independent contractors and entrepreneurs as employees—limiting an individual’s opportunity to have a more flexible work schedule and personal autonomy. The bill would also eliminate “secondary boycott” protections, codify ambush elections and undermine attorney-client confidentiality.
Taken together, employees will be forced to make a life-altering, split-second decision about whether to join a union without the benefit of having questions answered by their employer. As if this is not concerning enough, the bill goes a step further toward eliminating an individual’s free and private choice whether to join or not join a union—and does so by codifying “card check” (which effectively makes an individual’s personal decision public) and preempting state right-to-work laws (which currently allow employees to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union rather than being required to do so as a condition of employment). This legislation is unacceptable, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) opposes it.
The NAM supports reforms that reflect the needs of workers in the modern economy. For example, we supported House passage of Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R-AL) H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act, which would fix a broken standard set forth in the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) decision to determine if someone is an “employee” under the National Labor Relations Act. We also applaud the NLRB’s announcement last week that it will conduct rulemaking on this important issue. By contrast, the WDA would codify the BFI decision and perpetuate this broken standard.
We also support legislative provisions that encourage employee choice and provide for privacy in personal decisions. For example, many of the provisions of the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723, introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), S. 1774, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)) improve privacy and protections for employees by providing for secret ballot elections and greater choice over how union dues are spent on political advocacy. We also support Rep. Francis Rooney’s (R-FL) innovative Current Employee Representation Act (H.R. 4327), which would give manufacturers and their employees the choice to reconsider or reaffirm their union representation if fewer than 50 percent of the currently represented employees had the chance to vote for that union.
Congress should focus on legislation that helps employees. That is why the NAM strongly opposes the WDA and why we will continue to fight for employee rights and innovation.