Empower American Workers, Not Union Bosses

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

By David Rouzer

North Carolina law declares that, “The right to live includes the right to work.” As a right-to-work state, the Tar Heel state operates under the concept that all working individuals should have the right to join or refuse a union and the right to leave a union should one feel the organization is not accurately or fairly representing their beliefs and opinions.

Unfortunately, 25 states in addition to the District of Columbia have hundreds of thousands of workers unable to enjoy and benefit from this most basic worker right — freedom of association.

Freedom of association is essential to empowering individuals, expanding businesses, growing jobs and creating prosperity. In fact, there is ample evidence that right-to-work states, which generally have stronger pro-business policies, enjoy a higher rate of economic growth.

Research published by economist Thomas Holmes of the University of Minnesota compared bordering counties between states with and without right-to-work laws. Specifically, cumulative growth of employment in manufacturing in right-to-work states was 26 percentage points higher than those in the non-right-to-work states.

My home state of North Carolina has experienced tremendous growth as a result of enacting numerous pro-business policies since 2011, but our long-standing right-to-work law is a critical foundational component to North Carolina’s success. Since January 2013, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has dropped more than three percentage points, from 8.7 percent unemployed to 5.6 percent — the 10th largest decrease in the unemployment rate across the nation.

Not only are North Carolinians free from the political power of union bosses, but they also are able to enjoy the most basic right of having a more autonomous relationship with their employer — one free from coercion and expensive union dues among others things.

Most everyone can agree that employees should be empowered and protected from oppressive organizations and unfair treatment in the workplace. That’s why I’m joining my colleagues in both the House and Senate to co-sponsor the first plan to reform our nation’s labor laws in over six decades.

In short, the Employee Rights Act empowers American workers — not union bosses — by providing employees with many more avenues to have their voices heard. This bill also provides employees control of how their dues are spent, ensuring their money doesn’t go toward funding political activity that they do not support.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, labor unions spent more than $570 million during the past decade on elections, 90 percent of which was directed toward Democrats. However, exit polls in the last two presidential election cycles showed that about 40 percent of union members voted Republican, demonstrating a major discrepancy that should be addressed and reformed to more accurately reflect the will of union members.

Another major reform the ERA includes is securing employees’ right to a secret ballot to guard against intimidation and coercion by labor union bosses. Additionally, in order to ensure that employees are not held hostage by their union, this bill requires periodic referendums to provide employees with more opportunities to get out of their labor union should they decide it no longer represents their values or priorities.

The ERA is necessary to providing employees with the power to determine freely, without fear of reprisal, whether they want to be part of a union, and it provides more options for their voices to be heard so their respective union can be a much truer voice of its membership. Where there is freedom, there is opportunity to grow and prosper to achieve the American Dream.

Republican David Rouzer is the Representative for North Carolina’s 7th congressional district.