Republicans Lead on Guaranteeing Citizens Their Right to Work

This op-ed column was originally published at

By Julio Fuentes

After the events in Paris and San Bernardino, Americans are concerned with security, and rightly so. The defeat of ISIS is essential to our safety and the continuation of our democratic way of life. Troubling as this threat is, hard-working people also worry about their financial security as this country struggles to build an economic recovery that reaches deep into our communities.

President Obama has made it clear that Democrats cannot lead on either front. As Election Day approaches, we must look to the other side of the ticket for solutions.

Among the problems Republicans alone are willing to address is Big Labor’s increasing stranglehold on the workplace and economic growth. Unfortunately, the current administration has done everything in its power to boost union dominance. Employees who prefer not to unionize are being denied a voice by a process designed to hand them — and a portion of their paychecks — over to labor organizations.

We must reverse this trend before the worst of union aggression reaches the Sunshine State. To do that, we need the Employee Rights Act.

So far, Floridians have been fortunate. The right to work — without being forced to join a union in order to get or keep a job — is enshrined in the state’s Constitution. Given a choice, our workers have been reluctant to join unions that provide little benefit to members while serving the whims of union bosses. Accordingly, only 7 percent of our workforce is unionized, and labor organizations have tended not to cross our borders because we don’t grant them mandatory dues.

We can no longer rely on this deterrent. Private-sector unions are waning from a peak of 1.5 million members to 400,000 nationwide. All the while, other states are joining Florida in granting the right to work — Indiana and Michigan in 2012 and Wisconsin in 2015. In a fight for survival, labor organizations now have no choice but to push into uncharted territory. And they cannot afford to lose.

In light of these developments, we must take action to ensure desperate unions cannot run roughshod over employees. Yet we must do so without denying workers’ inalienable right to organize. The Employee Rights Act achieves the proper balance.

This legislation does nothing to hinder unionization, but it sets some basic rules to ensure fairness. A supervised, secret ballot election would determine if a majority of employees want to certify a union to represent them. This would eliminate the use of card checks, a public declaration of union support that leaves employees vulnerable to intimidation. Threats and violence by union organizers would also be criminalized, thereby guarding the integrity of the process.

Moreover, the bill would bring important changes to unionized workplaces. Labor organizations would need a member’s permission to use his or her dues for purposes unrelated to collective bargaining. Employees who disagree with the Democratic leaning of nearly all union political action will no longer be forced to fund candidates and causes they oppose.

Finally, this legislation would require a recertification vote to be held whenever workplace turnover exceeds 50 percent. This may be the most important provision of the ERA. Federal statistics show that a mere 7 percent of workers voted for their own union because, in most cases, certification was achieved decades before they were employed. As a matter of course, today’s workers should be allowed to decide whether or not to remain a union shop. And such accountability may finally compel union executives to heed the will of members.

Florida’s Jeb Bush is one of the few prominent presidential candidates to give the Employee Rights Act the vocal support it deserves. Workers should be proud of our former governor for taking this stand, and they should demand other candidates they may be considering to become equally active on the issue in order to earn their primary vote in March.

Julio Fuentes is President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.