A Very Necessary Update to Labor Laws

This op-ed column was originally published at WeeklyStandard.com

By Mark Hemingway

Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Tom Price have just reintroduced the Employee Rights Act, which would make some very necessary updates to labor law. Naturally, unions are engaged in the usual hyperbole attacking the legislation. See, for example, this March op-ed from the president of the Texas AFL-CIO calling it on “an attack on democracy.”

In an editorial for The Weekly Standard last fall, I explained why the Employee Rights Act was worthwhile. Among other things, the law would actually strengthen democracy in the workplace by making sure all union elections are conducted by secret ballot so that union organizers can’t identify and bully workers who don’t support them in union elections. It would also require unions to have recertification elections. Less than 10 percent of union workers have ever voted for the union representing them.

The ERA would also criminalize all acts of union violence. Wait, you might say—isn’t violence already illegal? In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the Hobbs Act, which outlaws violence, robbery, and extortion with the purpose of disrupting interstate commerce, doesn’t apply to “legitimate union objectives.” Unions don’t face legal consequences for actual attacks, and somehow it’s always union opponents that are attacking democracy.

There’s more to the ERA than these few issues, and in addition to my editorial, Rick Berman has a good and pithy summation of what the ERA does and why it’s worthwhile. These labor reforms need to be a bigger legislative priority, and a good start would be raising some awareness about the fact that labor laws are unconscionably slanted in favor of unions.

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer for The Weekly Standard.