Why I Support the Employee Rights Act

This op-ed column was originally published at YDR.com

By Scott Perry

As I meet with employees throughout the 4th Congressional District, I’ve become increasingly concerned that the American experience – making something of yourself and building a future based on your effort and work ethic – slowly but assuredly is slipping away.

Outdated and burdensome federal regulations, unfair foreign trade practices and other roadblocks lead to the loss of family-sustaining jobs and higher cost of living – slowly taking away our ability to shape a future for ourselves and our families. The U.S. House has taken action on some of these issues, but we can do more to empower people.

For example:  employees should be able to decide for themselves how their hard-earned paychecks are spent. However, existing law allows unions to deduct millions of dollars every year from employee paychecks to fund political causes. So an employee’s dues – expected to go toward collective bargaining and similar functions – is being squandered on political causes with which they may not agree. Doesn’t an employee deserve the right to make that choice for him/herself?

Now, as unions are pushing to enter retail, food service, domestic service and other economic sectors, it’s more important than ever to institute reasonable and modern policy for employees. Legislation I’ve co-sponsored – the Employee Rights Act (ERA) – would do this by updating U.S. labor laws to provide for

  • The right to a federally supervised, secret ballot when deciding whether to join or stick with a union, as well as on any vote to strike.
  • The right to privacy, so unions are unable to access home addresses and other information about employees who would prefer not to be contacted.
  • A requirement that employees must “opt in” before their dues are used for political purposes.

Equally important is the requirement for a union recertification vote whenever a majority of the workforce turns over. Only 7 percent of private-sector union members voted for the union in their current workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Rather than being stuck with an organization from their grandparents’ era, current employees would be empowered to vote up or down on their own unions and make the best choice for themselves.

The ERA would provide greater rights on the job to every nongovernment employee. Polling data from ORC International (CNN’s pollster) confirms the reforms in the ERA are supported by every employee demographic; that’s because the bill isn’t anti-union. I’m glad to stand with unions on issues where we agree, such as stopping unfair foreign trade practices. When we disagree, I tell them where I stand on the issue and why. If employees decide they want to unionize or support Democrats or Republicans, that should be their choice.

The Employee Rights Act would strengthen and protect employees’ voices. Yet President Obama, who claims to be their advocate, would veto the bill – a stance evident of ineffective, old-school thinking. In the 1930s, when U.S. labor laws were written, unions were one of the only effective means for employees to be heard. Now in the age of coworker.com petitions and S corporation employee stock ownership, numerous models abound for increasing employee engagement.

Employees should not be coerced to follow the narrow union road; rather, they must be given the right to self-determination and a safe, fair process by which to decide what works best for them. If President Obama truly respects employees, he’ll support these protections and get behind the Employee Right Act. I’m proud to join many others across the country in supporting this important legislation, which empowers employees and allows them to have a voice in shaping their future and their families’.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry is a Republican who represents York County in Pennsylvania.