Foreseeing a New Era for Employees

This op-ed column was originally published at

By Ed Williams

The U.S. economy is undergoing massive change. From Tesla and Uber to green energy startups, business is done differently than it was a few years ago — let alone in the 1940s.

What a shame the law has failed to keep pace. Employees have seen no major updates to federal labor legislation since Harry Truman was President. The disconnect shows.

Policies informed by the Great Depression saw workers and unions as one. In the intervening decades, however, employees’ interests have frequently diverged from union executives’.

To solve this problem, one proposal has come forward. The Employee Rights Act would return balance to the system. It would become no harder to join a union. But it would become equally acceptable under the law to choose not to join.

Unions will inevitably respond with their same old stale remarks. But this bill has no “anti-labor” measures hidden in the details. At little more than 1,500 words, the legislation includes eight common sense provisions:

— Prohibitions against threatening, violent, or criminal behavior by union reps;

— Penalties against unions that coerce, discipline, or interfere with employees seeking decertification;

— The requirement that a worker “opt in” before a union can use his or her dues money on political campaigning;

— The right to decline to have personal information, such as home address, shared with a union;

— The right to a secret ballot when a workplace is deciding on unionization;

— The right to a secret ballot before declaring a strike;

— The right to a recertification vote when most of a workforce turns over;

— The bar for victory in any election — for unionization, decertification, or strike — set at a majority of affected employees, not merely a majority of votes received.

That’s it. In the simplest terms, the Employee Rights Act gives rank-and-file members oversight of their own union. It ends the days when a union put in place before I was elected governor in the 1970s can continue to act with impunity in 2015.

The Act will give employees a safe, fair, and private opportunity to vote “up or down” on continued union representation. It will also put an end to unions’ backing of Democratic causes against the wishes of the 40 percent of members who vote Republican.

This change alone will realign the political landscape to reflect American workers’ real opinions.

Nevada is fortunate to be a “right to work” state, saved from the worst of union problems. But our employees deserve protection as much as those in the majority of states, where it is legal to require union membership as a condition of employment.

Unfortunately, this issue is destined to become mired in politics — unless we keep our sights on what’s most important. Employees must have the right to decide what’s in their own best interest.

As we hear from Presidential hopefuls, voters should put this issue high on their list of concerns. Americans should support only candidates who, in turn, support the freedom of American workers.

Ed Williams is chairman of the Clark County Republican Party.