Category Archive: Editorials

  1. Remember Freedom of Association? Union Membership Should Not be Forced

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Washington Examiner editorial board

    Can state governments use their public workforce to funnel money from taxpayers to their political allies against the will of public employees? That question will be argued before the Supreme Court this week.

    The case is Janus v. AFSCME, and the question is whether governments can compel public employees who aren’t union members to pay dues or fees to the union. This is important for Democrats because public-employee unions are key allies and the involuntary dues fund these unions to push more public employees into joining.

    A correct ruling in this case would expand the rights of public employees. Congress could follow suit with federal laws further protecting workers from unions who demand the right to slip a grasping hand into their pockets and take out some of their hard-earned wages.

    Here’s the background:

    In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Sam Alito signaled that they were ready to end compulsory union dues and fee payments for government workers everywhere, overturning a precedent set decades earlier. Now Justice Neil Gorsuch has been added to the Supreme Court, and a similar case has made its way to the top.

    Janus v. AFSCME, brought by government workers in Illinois, offers the Court an opportunity to follow through, reverse the precedent, and stop states operating closed union shops. No longer would governments be the handmaidens and dues-collectors for public employee unions, which give their political donations overwhelmingly to Democrats, who return the favor with anti-freedom, pro-union laws and regulations.

    Union membership would finally be voluntary in the public sector, with each clerk, fireman, prison guard, bus driver, sanitation worker, and public school teacher free to choose for himself. This case is a very big deal, in that it could effectively establish universal Right-to-Work for all government employees, shutting off a massive unearned stream of income for politically active left-wing groups.

    Unions are an important part of our society and economy, and, properly limited in their actions, can be beneficial. But they should earn their money and membership the way most institutions do, by convincing people that they are worth joining and funding. Let the market decide whether they are worth the money and build a base of voluntary members. A proper ruling in Janus would bring us a step in that direction.

    Whatever the court decides, Congress can build on it to make 2018 a true year of worker freedom. The federal Employee Rights Act would extend new freedoms to private-sector workers by requiring periodic workplace votes to re-certify their unions.

    This would guarantee that those unions are still serving the interests of the workers, not just living on and collecting their dues through inertia because a completely separate group of workers happened to choose that union in the 1960s.

    Just as a favorable ruling in Janus could free all government workers from compulsory union membership, the ERA would give private-sector employees a realistic chance of getting rid of unwanted, inefficient, or poor union representation.

    Labor unions played a large role in creating the modern workplace. But having decades ago fought for and obtained a regulatory structure that makes modern workplaces safe and humane, unions have become a lot less necessary to today’s workers.

  2. Republicans Should Score a Big Win for Employee Rights

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By Washington Examiner editorial board

    This winter, Republicans accomplished something that hadn’t been done in more than three decades. They reformed the tax code, restoring American businesses to tax competitiveness with businesses aboard and, one hopes, paving the way toward a period of broad-based prosperity.

    That’s quite an achievement. But if one such 30-year milestone is impressive, imagine how much more impressed voters will find it if Republicans reform laws governing unions and workplace representation, which hasn’t been done for three generations.

    Republicans have introduced the Employee Rights Act in recent Congresses, a bill that would do just that. Its most important accomplishment would be to restore workplace democracy with regular and periodic secret-ballot workplace elections. For the first time in 80 years — let’s repeat that, 80 years — workers would be guaranteed a say in their representation at work, rather than being stuck with whichever union was chosen by workers at their companies decades earlier.

    The bill would allow workers to choose whether their private information is given to union organizers by their employers, or withheld from them. Under current law, the employers must hand such information over to unions that are trying to organize their employees, regardless of whether workers want that.

    The Employee Rights Act has 140 GOP sponsors in the House. Ever since its original proposal, its common-sense provisions have been extremely popular, enjoying 75 to 80 percent support from the public. Contrast that with tax reform, which may yet prove popular but had only 30 percent approval when it passed. You’d think that the Republican Party would seize on the chance to do something manifestly and hugely popular in an election year. But the party is adept at self-inflicting public relations black eyes.

    The Employee Rights Act also has all the right enemies. Big Labor strongly disapproves, because its coffers would not be filled from the pay packets of workers finally given the choice of denying them the money. Big corporations, too, are hesitant, because they’d rather deal with the reliable union devil they know than be forced to negotiate pay with employees individually.

    But that’s no reason for Republicans to ignore the rights of the workers, who are too often forced into one-size-fits-all arrangements, or end up in them by default or through inertia, rather than through any desire of their own or positive choice.

    President Trump’s party may face an electoral tsunami in 10 months’ time unless they rack up popular achievements and pursue other popular ideas, whether or not they actually pass Congress. Given public sentiment and the lack of coherent Democratic opposition, the ERA is an ideal vehicle for doing the latter.

    The election year is already underway. It won’t be long before the midterms are too close for Congress to get any serious legislating done. It would be unfortunate if congressional Republican leaders chose not to rest on their laurels and missed the chance to move a bill like this one.

  3. Pass the Employee Rights Act

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By The Gazette editorial board

    Lost in news of scandals, faux scandals, potential tax reform and all variety of partisan bickering is a congressional bill that would put workers in control of their unions.

    The Employee Rights Act, or Senate Bill 1874, is steadily gaining support in Congress, as President Donald Trump would likely sign it into law. Two Colorado Republican members of Congress, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, are among 105 House co-sponsors who are all Republicans.

    Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., might sign on with 19 Senate Republican sponsors, and the list is destined to grow.

    “Senator Gardner was a cosponsor of this legislation last Congress. He is currently reviewing this version and remains supportive of the concept,” explains an email from Gardner’s office to The Gazette.

    The bill could win bipartisan support, if better understood. Introduced in September by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the bill would:

    • Guarantee private ballots in elections
    • Mandate scheduled union recertification by vote of union members
    • Require permission of union members before spending their dues on political races
    • Establish “majority vote” as the threshold for deciding election outcomes
    • Enhance personal privacy of union members from union leaders
    • Prevent coercion by union leaders
    • Ensure ballot privacy in strike elections
    • Criminalize threats against union members by union leaders

    Labor unions have been, and remain, a vital component of the checks and balances that maintain constructive labor/management relations. Unions have increased compensation and protected workers’ interests for generations.

    Just like poorly regulated employers sometimes abuse their authority, so do poorly regulated union leaders. Congress has not substantially updated union regulations in 70 years. Meanwhile, union tactics and workplaces have changed substantially.

    A survey found four of five Americans support the concept of the Employee Rights Act.

    The bill is not anti-union. It is pro-worker, by making unions more responsive to the needs and wishes of union members.

    By requiring routine recertification elections, the law would cause union bosses to work only in the interests of members. If union membership is not worth the dues, members will vote to decertify. If the union is helping workers, members will gladly vote to recertify and continue paying dues.

    By ensuring private ballots, the law would liberate workers to vote without fear. The law would prevent spending of union dues on candidates a majority of members may not like. This is common sense.

    Every detail of the Employee Rights Act would make unions more supportive of the members who fund them.

    Unions are important but should represent only the interests of members who voluntarily join. Republicans and Democrats who care about workers should support this bill.

  4. The GOP’s Labor Project

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Editorial Board

    With health care consuming most of Congress’s bandwidth, Republicans may need to multi-task to achieve other legislative successes this session. Perhaps they could start with reforms to U.S. labor law.

    The 1935 National Labor Relations Act hasn’t undergone substantive revisions in 70 years, while the U.S. Constitution has been amended six times. Congress has traditionally deferred to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to interpret labor law, but Barack Obama’s appointees demonstrated the need to safeguard worker rights in statute as they rigged the rules to favor unions.

    House Republicans have now introduced an Employee Rights Act partly modeled on state reforms. In the last Congress 137 House Members and 33 Senators co-sponsored similar legislation, which never moved because Mr. Obama had the veto pen. Now they have an ally in the White House.

    The House bill would require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining. Current labor law lets unions deduct money from worker paychecks to fund political activities. Workers then must go through the tortuous process of requesting a refund for the share not spent on collective bargaining, which unions may broadly define to include member engagement that boosts voter turnout. No other political outfit enjoys this fundraising fillip.

    Democrats oppose an opt-in requirement because they know many workers won’t voluntarily endorse a portion of their paychecks to fund political spending with which they disagree. Exit polls last year showed that 43 percent of union households voted for Republicans while Democrats received 86 percent of labor financial support. An opt-in rule could improve political accountability within unions.

    Another problem is that only 7 percent of currently unionized employees voted for their union, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics and NLRB data. Many workforces have turned over completely since their unions were certified. Yet decertifying a union is an arduous process made more difficult by the Obama NLRB.

    The House bill would mandate a recertification election upon the expiration of a collective-bargaining agreement if a workforce has turned over by more than 50 percent. In 2011 Wisconsin passed legislation requiring annual recertification elections for public unions. Membership has since dropped by half as many workers have decided that the costs of belonging exceed the benefits.

    Unions sometimes coerce workers into signing cards and then bully employers—for instance, by threatening a public assault on their brand—into recognizing the card checks in lieu of holding secret-ballot elections. The bill would protect workers and employers from union intimidation by taking card-check off the menu of options. It would also allow employees to withhold their personal contact information from unions.

    Republicans might not be able to get the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, but they could break up the legislation into bite-sized pieces that could be attached to spending bills. Most provisions poll well and can be easily explained to voters. Let’s see who in Congress will vote to protect workers from coercion.

  5. Return Power to Union Members

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Editorial Board

    Unions should serve the interests of the employees, but too often union leadership ignores the members they are supposed to serve to pursue power and influence. Legislation in Congress could change this, and it has a good chance of passing.

    The Employee Rights Act would protect workers from union leadership abuses through eight employee reforms that put the workers first, including secret ballot elections, paycheck protection and union recertification. These reforms would help shift the balance of power, returning it to the employees.

    “All workers should be able to privately decide which organizations they wish to join, said U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, a co-sponsor of the ERA, in an email. “The Employee Rights Act makes that possible by ensuring all Americans enjoy the right to a secret ballot in the workplace.”

    Measures to reform labor law, like the ERA, are seeing an unprecedented amount of support. For decades, the status quo has remained untouched, allowing the labor unions to empower union leadership while depriving workers of several basic rights and protections.

    Labor unions want to extend their reach, and to do this they need more dues-paying members. As a result, many employees find themselves with union representation they never asked for. According to ERA supporters, less than 7 percent of union members voted for the union that now represents them.

    The ERA would require union recertification, which would require every unionized workplace to regularly stand for re-election so employees can determine whether they want to continue to be represented by an incumbent union.

    As it exists, the system allows unions to stay in place indefinitely unless workers petition for a decertification vote. This rarely happens, though, because workers must wade through miles of legal red tape.

    The ERA would also uphold secret ballot elections, which protect workers from external pressure when deciding for or against union representation. Voluntary and involuntary members of various unions are currently plagued by bullying-tactics when voting, which run from paid picketers to brand attacks.

    By requiring a federally supervised secret ballot election, employees could escape this pressure. Supporters of the bill said more than 79 percent of union households agree workers should have this right.

    Currently, labor law also allows unions to use members’ dues for political activism, without obtaining prior approval from the workers they claim to represent. Exit polls from Edison Media Research obtained by The Heritage Foundation in 2012 demonstrated that 40 percent of union households voted Republican, yet 90 percent of union political support went to the Democratic Party and other liberal special interest groups.

    And although 60 percent of union members object to their dues being used for political activism, the Heritage Foundation said they rarely receive a refund of their dues because unions often won’t honor this right until federal charges are filed.

    Workers have a right to choose where their money goes. The ERA would ensure paycheck protection, requiring unions to obtain permission from employees before using their money for political purposes.

    When the interests of unions and employees clash, the law currently allows unions to suppress the rights and voices of its members. The ERA provides the reforms that would change this and give power back to the workers.

  6. ERA Will Let Republican Party Make the Case for Workers’ Rights

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Editorial Board

    It might be hard to believe in the current news environment, dominated by investigations and sworn testimony, but Congress has an obligation to make domestic policy.

    Last month, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., proposed a bill that Congress should waste no time passing. That’s the Employee Rights Act, that finally applies needed reforms to the 80-year-old National Labor Relations Act. Although the same bill was proposed in the last Congress, this could mark the first time the bill passes the House of Representatives. Lawmakers will have the chance to start that process on Wednesday, when the House Education and Workforce Committee takes it up.

    The bill’s future in the Senate is far less certain, given the need for up to eight Democratic votes. But Republicans can and should push it as hard as possible, forcing votes and making solid arguments, to apply pressure to vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election next year. With Democrats (including Sens. Angus King and Bernie Sanders) defending 25 of the 33 Senate seats being contested next year, there is a real opportunity to build a Republican majority that can pass this bill and restore basic fairness to dealings in the workplace.

    Republicans can do this by simply and persistently pointing out how unfair the current system is. Most members of the public are not familiar with Depression-era labor laws, which can often be shocking in their unfairness.

    Because continued monopoly representation by the same union is assumed by default, for example, an astoundingly high share of union members are disenfranchised with respect to making that choice for themselves. More than 90 percent of union-represented workers never had an opportunity to vote for or against union representation in the workplace, or which union they want representing them.

    Democrats routinely decry what they say is voter suppression, but here is an example of profound and system suppression that they are happy to continue, because of course the unions that collect the dues then pass money along to Democratic coffers. Funny how even serious problems can be made to go away by rubbing money into them!

    In this highly undemocratic system, unions can thus continue collecting dues and agency fees as a simple matter of inertia, regardless of the will of the workers they are charged to represent. And the process for decertifying an incumbent union is a risky uphill battle for the workers who want it, fraught with workplace acrimony and union intimidation. This is why less than one percent of unions are decertified in any given year.

    The Employee Rights Act would apply the same common-sense solution that citizens use to elect their political leaders. It would require periodic secret-ballots for union representation. It would also require workers’ affirmative consent before their money is spent on political causes, and criminalize union threats and violence.

    The ERA is not a household name and it would be daft to imagine it will dominate voters’ attention during the 2018 election. Yet it will be a plus for candidates who support it, especially after a sufficiently vigorous public education campaign.

  7. Employee Rights Act Would Give Union Members the Right to a Secret Ballot

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Editorial Board

    Democrats for years have worked to eliminate secret ballots in union elections. That’s because their Big Labor benefactors prefer a card-check system under which workers simply sign a document indicating their organizing preference.

    Such systems have higher success rates from the union perspective. That’s because the process can be rife with abuse. Workers must make their choices openly, sometimes in front of other members. The potential for bullying and intimidation is obvious.

    Given their long-standing support for card check, it’s quite revealing that following the recent vote to name a new chair of the Democratic National Party, Democrats tried to keep the ballots private. In a Wednesday commentary in the Wall Street Journal, Akash Chougule notes that party officials relented only after “prodding” from reporters.

    This hypocrisy isn’t at all unusual. Last November, Democrats in the House held a secret ballot to determine the party’s leadership and the fate of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The reason? Some members might be reluctant to reveal their true feelings if forced to vote openly. Politics can be a nasty business and reprisals are part of the game.

    The winner of the DNC balloting was Tom Perez, the secretary of labor under Barack Obama. As Mr. Chougule points out, “Mr. Perez has long supported card-check campaigns and opposed secret ballots.” In 2010, he advocated passage of the intentionally misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, which would have installed the card-check system for most union certification elections.

    The legislation died — and with good reason. Secret balloting provides a more accurate measure of preference and gives voters peace of mind that they won’t face retaliation over their choices.

    Mr. Chougule references a 1989 AFL-CIO handbook that acknowledged “it is not until the union obtains signatures from 75 percent or more of the unit that the union has a 50 percent likelihood of winning” a secret election. That speaks volumes.

    With Donald Trump in the White House and Democrats relegated to the minority in both houses of Congress, efforts to revive card check are a waste of time. And Republicans have introduced a bill to keep it that way. The Employee Rights Act, first offered in 2015, imposes a number of meritorious reforms, including a mandate that all union organizing votes be conducted via secret ballot.

    “What this legislation is intended to do is simply allow workers the freedom of association,” said Georgia Republican Tom Price, who sponsored the House version of the bill and now serves in Mr. Trump’s Cabinet.

    The president and congressional Republicans have much do to in the next few months, particularly in the area of health care, tax policy and regulatory reform. Let’s hope they can also find time to pass the Employee Rights Act.

  8. Big Labor Slapped Down. Congress Should Do Likewise.

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    This editorial was originally published at

    By the Editorial Board

    A jury in Houston handed down an important verdict this week that you probably haven’t heard about. It will affect the way unions behave when trying to organize workers.

    The SEIU lost a $5.3 million judgment for business defamation in a lawsuit filed nine years ago. The case stems from an organizing drive it conducted to force America’s sixth-largest cleaning service, Professional Janitorial Service, to accept union representation without a secret-ballot vote by its staff.

    The case sheds light on the tactics unions use with impunity against innocent companies. It also exposes their real intentions for workers. It shows why Congress needs to step in and thwart them. Their underhanded methods are becoming more prevalent as they have become ever-more desperate to rope in private-sector employees.

    The union mounted a campaign to defame Professional because the company’s managers refused to give the SEIU a monopoly on representing staff without those employees having a say for themselves. The company demanded, as federal law allows but does not require, a federally supervised vote in which employees could decide whether they wanted the SEIU to represent them or not.

    Unions win such elections more often than not, but the SEIU did not want to leave it to chance. So it retaliated against the company by libeling it with false accusations about illegal labor practices and overtime violations.

    The SEIU claimed that Professional fired staff for trying to unionize, and had forced others to work off the books. Both allegations were dismissed as unfounded — lies, in other words — by the Labor Department.

    The union’s libel was part of a broader campaign to drive Professional out of business unless it surrendered to union demands. Behind the scenes, the SEIU used its political connections to steer contracts away from the company. Emails showed SEIU officials electronically high-fiving each other every time Professional lost a contract.

    This case is a big deal because it’s the first time the SEIU has been forced to defend its shabby behavior in court. The jury was clearly disgusted by the union’s gutter tactics and made its decision in just eight hours. The verdict, as former Harris County AFL-CIO official Richard Shaw told the Houston Chronicle, means “unions have to be more careful on what they say and how they say it.”

    In other words, they are no longer exempt from the laws that apply to everyone else, newspapers included.

    Congress can do much more to curb dishonest and underhand union tactics by passing the Employee Rights Act.

    The legislation would require secret-ballot votes for unionizing, so unions could no longer retaliate against employers who demanded them, as the SEIU did in this case. It would prevent unions from bullying employees who try to hold a vote to decertify their union. Finally, it would break unions’ monopoly bargaining rights, and their rights to membership dues, by allowing workers to vote frequently on whether to keep or fire the union representing them.

    Justice for workers was never supposed to mean putting them at the mercy of union bosses. It is heartening to see a court holding big labor to the same standards as everyone else. It would be even better if Congress did the same.