Employee Rights Act Sends Right Labor Day Message

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

By Newt Gingrich

Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Orrin Hatch and Congressman Tom Price, Republicans have in the Employee Rights Act a solid, positive message for American workers.

The Employee Rights Act is focused on protecting workers rather than unions or businesses.

It has a series of common-sense (and very popular provisions). The ERA:

* Guarantees a majority of the employees have the right to a secret ballot before union leaders can declare a strike (88 percent of union households support).

* Makes any union threat of violence against members a criminal offense (93 percent of union households support).

* Protects worker privacy during an organizing campaign (84 percent of union households support).

* Guarantees that a majority of all employees have a right to a secret ballot paper election about organizing their company (85 percent support among union households).

* Strengthens the National Labor Relations Act to block unions from intimidating or coercing employees from exercising their rights, including the right to de-certify the union (75 percent support among union households).

* Protects the individual worker’s political rights by insisting that unions have to get opt-in permission from each member to use his or her union dues for purposes other than collective bargaining (85 percent support from union households).

At every step, the Employee Rights Act strengthens the individual against large institutions that could coerce them or threaten them. Perversely, many of the laws that were first created in the 1930s to protect workers by strengthening unions now have the unintended effect of allowing big unions to abuse their members — and even those employees who want nothing to do with them.

As a few of the victims themselves testify in this video, unions can be recognized in workplaces without a secret ballot election. They can spend employees’ money supporting political candidates that employees oppose even without their permission. And they can continue to represent workers in companies where not a single employee had the opportunity to vote for them.

These practices are unfair and should be unacceptable in the 21st century.

Mr. Hatch and Mr. Price are to be commended for having the courage to provide leadership in an area which has not been reformed in modern times.

This Labor Day we should focus on the rights of workers, not just the rights of union leaders. The Employee Rights Act has the right focus and the right reforms.

Newt Gingrich served as House speaker from 1995 to 1999 and is an adviser to the Center for Union Facts, a group working to advance employee rights.