Employee Rights Act has Great Merit

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

By Don Ipson

It isn’t often I get my hopes up that Congress will act on something important to workers and businesses.

However, as we start the New Year, I am hoping that Congress will debate and pass the Employee Rights Act, S.1874, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatchand co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee. This important piece of federal legislation addresses several less than honorable practices labor unions have employed across the country for decades.  This legislation would provide an important “check” to these practices.

Our Founders felt strongly about the sanctity of a secret ballot for our political elections. American voters need to be able to cast their ballot without fear of aggression or pressure from family, friends or co-workers as they make their voice heard on Election Day. The outcomes of a union election could arguably play a much greater role in not only the day-to-day life of an employee, but that person’s entire working career.

If we are guaranteed the right to a secret ballot each November, why should employees voting whether or not to join a union be denied this same right? The Employee Rights Act gives union members this right.

Another important component of the bill is that it would give employees privacy protections. In 1969, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that an employer must turn over employees’ personal contact information within seven days of a union formation election. Since that ruling there have been reports that labor union have used this contact information to visit employees at their homes and pressure them to vote to unionize.

Due to this NLRB ruling, there is currently no mechanism that will allow an employee to opt out of having his or her personal information shared. This legislation would allow for privacy protections similar to the “Do Not Call” registry.

The final component that I find particularly important relates to union dues. If an employee is already a member of a union and paying dues, it is important that the employee understand how their dues are being used. One might reasonably expect that the dues be used in collective bargaining representation on the employee’s behalf. However, the employee might be surprised to learn that the dues were diverted to political parties, political candidates or other types of political advocacy. This legislation would require that union receive opt-in permission from each union member to use his or her union dues for purposes outside of collective bargaining.

I’m very happy that our Utah senators have taken on this legislation to rein in the NLRB and out-of-bound union tactics. My hope for 2016 is that all members of Congress will see the wisdom in putting checks and balances to this important issue for workers and business alike.

Rep. Don L. Ipson represents House District 75 in Washington County. He is participating in a rotating monthly column for The Spectrum & Daily News, along with other members of the state legislature from Southern Utah.