Today’s Pro-Worker Party is Filled with Republicans

This op-ed column was originally published at

By William O’Brien

As we look toward the 2016 elections, Americans have an abundance of issues to discuss and candidates to choose from. All voters, Republican and Democrats, can be thankful that they will have a say in who represents them in our nation’s government.

Unfortunately, many employees in our country are denied the same fundamental right when it comes to their own workplace.

Today many American workers are represented by unions they never voted for, and are forced to pay union dues they never approved. Moreover, they are helpless to prevent those dues from being used to fund political causes and candidates against their values. Even worse for them, workers are too often ordered by union bosses to strike and endure the financial consequences of walking off the job — without even the benefit of a secret ballot vote, the gold standard of democratic decision-making.

These outrages are the results of antiquated labor laws that haven’t seen meaningful change since the 1940s — back when America was a manufacturing and agricultural economy without substantial employee protection laws, not the services-focused, technologically advanced, worker empowered economy of today.

The Republican Party is continuing to work hard to update our labor laws to benefit our workers. Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Tom Price, are striving to change U.S. labor laws to reflect 21st-century realities. Against stiff opposition from Democratic politicians, Republicans have crafted legislation — the Employee Rights Act — that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support among hard-working Americans in both political parties.

The reasons are clear and the goals must be achieved. Nothing in the Employee Rights Act makes it more difficult to join a union. This legislation only guarantees workers protections so common-sense and employee-friendly that most people believe they are already law.

For example, the Employee Rights Act guarantees a federally supervised secret ballot vote among employees in order for a workplace to become unionized. This bill eliminates a loophole in which a union can use a “card check” for certification. This public collection of signatures leaves workers open to intimidation, whether overt or implied. Federal law should not promote a union practice of terrorizing workers.

Card check is also a tactic some union bosses have used deceptively. For example, we should no longer permit asking workers to sign up to receive more information, but failing to honestly represent those signatures as votes for unionization. And once a workplace is unionized, even if it is done in a deceptive manner, U.S. labor laws make it almost impossible to get rid of that union. A flawed certification can condemn employees now and in the future to decades of paying exorbitant and almost inescapable union dues against their will.

That’s why most union workers are members of organizations that were voted into existence in the 1950s and ’60s, or even earlier. In fact, only about 10 percent of union-controlled workers actually voted for the union that currently demand allegiance from them.

Generations-long tenure without a re-vote destroys accountability. Many unions have thus become divorced from the interests of employees while funding the prosperity and political goals of almost dynastic union bosses. These bosses use dues to fund leftist political activities and buy their way into the highest echelons of the Democratic Party. All the while, a full 40 percent of rank-and-file members vote Republican and increasingly question the effectiveness and very legitimacy of union power structures.

The Employee Rights Act would fix these problems. If it is enacted, every union member could finally determine whether or not their own dues can be spent for political campaigning. And a recertification vote would occur whenever a majority of the workforce has turned over. That way, employees can evaluate their union’s performance and determine if an organization that may have been right in their grandparents’ day still makes sense today.

The Employee Rights Act reflects fundamental American values about democratic representation. Yet it would face certain veto by President Obama or by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden if they win office. This factor alone should compel Americans to question which party truly has employees’ interests at heart. In 2016, they should vote accordingly.