Return Power to Union Members

This editorial was originally published at

By the Editorial Board

Unions should serve the interests of the employees, but too often union leadership ignores the members they are supposed to serve to pursue power and influence. Legislation in Congress could change this, and it has a good chance of passing.

The Employee Rights Act would protect workers from union leadership abuses through eight employee reforms that put the workers first, including secret ballot elections, paycheck protection and union recertification. These reforms would help shift the balance of power, returning it to the employees.

“All workers should be able to privately decide which organizations they wish to join, said U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, a co-sponsor of the ERA, in an email. “The Employee Rights Act makes that possible by ensuring all Americans enjoy the right to a secret ballot in the workplace.”

Measures to reform labor law, like the ERA, are seeing an unprecedented amount of support. For decades, the status quo has remained untouched, allowing the labor unions to empower union leadership while depriving workers of several basic rights and protections.

Labor unions want to extend their reach, and to do this they need more dues-paying members. As a result, many employees find themselves with union representation they never asked for. According to ERA supporters, less than 7 percent of union members voted for the union that now represents them.

The ERA would require union recertification, which would require every unionized workplace to regularly stand for re-election so employees can determine whether they want to continue to be represented by an incumbent union.

As it exists, the system allows unions to stay in place indefinitely unless workers petition for a decertification vote. This rarely happens, though, because workers must wade through miles of legal red tape.

The ERA would also uphold secret ballot elections, which protect workers from external pressure when deciding for or against union representation. Voluntary and involuntary members of various unions are currently plagued by bullying-tactics when voting, which run from paid picketers to brand attacks.

By requiring a federally supervised secret ballot election, employees could escape this pressure. Supporters of the bill said more than 79 percent of union households agree workers should have this right.

Currently, labor law also allows unions to use members’ dues for political activism, without obtaining prior approval from the workers they claim to represent. Exit polls from Edison Media Research obtained by The Heritage Foundation in 2012 demonstrated that 40 percent of union households voted Republican, yet 90 percent of union political support went to the Democratic Party and other liberal special interest groups.

And although 60 percent of union members object to their dues being used for political activism, the Heritage Foundation said they rarely receive a refund of their dues because unions often won’t honor this right until federal charges are filed.

Workers have a right to choose where their money goes. The ERA would ensure paycheck protection, requiring unions to obtain permission from employees before using their money for political purposes.

When the interests of unions and employees clash, the law currently allows unions to suppress the rights and voices of its members. The ERA provides the reforms that would change this and give power back to the workers.