Texas Lawmakers Must Support the Employee Rights Act

This op-ed column was originally published at TribTalk.org

Rick Berman, CUF Executive Director

The 2018 election cycle is already underway. By next November, big bucks will be spent on dozens of House and Senate campaigns around the country. Experts estimate more than $3 billion will be spent on political advertisements.

If history is any indication, labor unions will be intimately involved. From 2012 to 2016, America’s unions sent nearly $765 million in member dues to the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups. This is in addition to funds spent directly on candidate support. The Center for Union Facts estimates that, since 2010, unions have contributed more than $1 billion to liberal groups without prior approval from their members.

The recipients range from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to the Clinton Foundation and Planned Parenthood. The DGA received nearly $11 million. Catalist, the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm, made off with roughly $9.5 million. Working America, the AFL-CIO’s grassroots political machine, received a whopping $52 million in the last five years alone. One of the group’s goals is to establish government-paid healthcare for everyone.

Despite the lopsided political preferences of union officials, 40 percent of union household members vote Republican in any given election cycle. In 2016, 43 percent of union household voters supported President Donald Trump. Union leadership continues to disregard them and bankroll the anti-Trump resistance.

This leaves many employees without a voice that matches their dues money. While opt-in permission is already a requirement for union campaign contributions, the same is not true for thinly veiled political advocacy — often disguised as “representational activities” — that is largely unrepresentative of employees’ interests. When did the multimillion-dollar Clinton Foundation become a charity entitled to the hijacked dues of union members?

Union officials can spend member dues on political advocacy without ever receiving affirmative consent from their dues-paying members — often on political causes many members oppose. And they do so with hundreds of millions of dollars.

The solution to this injustice is the Employee Rights Act (ERA). Reintroduced in the 115th Congress, the ERA would require union officials to obtain permission from members before spending dues money on political advocacy. This would prevent union elites from turning their backs on members and playing politics against employees’ own interests.

The most comprehensive update to American labor law since the 1940s, the ERA contains eight common-sense reforms, including a guaranteed secret ballot in union elections. All of the bill’s pro-employee provisions are designed to protect worker voice and make currently undemocratic union workplaces democratic.

The ERA’s key provisions are so common-sense that 80 percent of union household members — across the political aisle — support them. More than 50 free-market organizations have endorsed the legislation, claiming it would “allow American workers an unencumbered opportunity to make their voice heard.”

Fortunately, most of Texas’ congressional delegation is on board as well. From House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady on down, Texans in Washington are some of the ERA’s most dedicated champions. Unfortunately, Reps. Jodey Arrington, Joe Barton, Kay Granger and Will Hurd have yet to show whether they support this pro-employee labor reform.

The ERA is the only bill in Congress with 80 percent bipartisan support. It’s an idea whose time has come.