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Public Statements

Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WALZ of Minnesota. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

First of all, I rise to offer an amendment that would reinforce our commitment to protecting the employment rights of our brave servicemembers.

We've all seen this show before, Mr. Chairman. Let's not insult the intelligence of the American public. When we had an Employee Free Choice Act the other side argued we only want to protect the secret ballot. Now it's no, we want to protect the ability to let you vote on a secret ballot, but only when we decide that time has come.

We've seen this song and dance in Ohio, we've seen it in Wisconsin. Let's just be honest that we have a fundamental difference about labor rights and the ability to collectively bargain. We probably are not going to agree on that, but let's find some bipartisan ground where we can agree. I think my amendment is the one that will do that.

It's very straightforward. It simply prevents this piece of legislation, H.R. 3094, from applying to businesses that have been cited for violations of labor laws against employees who are veterans in the previous year. It is very simple. These are not the vast majority of employers who are playing by the rules. These are those who have had egregious violations, specifically against veterans, and this will help us protect those.

I wholeheartedly agree we've got a lot of good, strong employers out there supporting our Guard and Reserve, but labor laws are still being violated. We need these laws--last year, 3,000 cases of employers who violated the Uniform Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA, the main Federal law that protects veterans. My amendment provides a means for Congress to enforce veteran-related labor laws by removing the ability for violators to present unnecessary barriers to a free and expeditious union election process.

Keep in mind, these are the very people who fought to protect the basic American right to organize collectively for a safe workplace; yet, when they come home, we're going to throw barriers in their way even by companies that have already violated veterans' employment rights at a time when we have high unemployment amongst veterans. This is one on which we can come together.

By the way, 2 million veterans are in labor unions of their choice now, so this isn't a small number. This is a large number. Why would Congress hinder the ability for a veteran to choose whether or not they want representation? It's what they fought for.

While my colleagues and I can debate the role of government in collective bargaining, I don't believe there should be any difference in where we believe that this should not apply to violators of veterans' employment rights and allow them to make the choice.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WALZ of Minnesota. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I respect the chairman and the gentleman's opinion on this, but I want to be very clear. The only people this applies to is violators of veterans' workplace employment. These are veterans returning home who choose to have union representation, who have fought for that right in uniform and are now being told this.

The NLRB said this is no problem being able to be put in. It's at no cost to the taxpayer to be able to do this. And the thing that I hear coming up in the discussion today was we need to have more time to explain it to them.

I have tremendous faith in the ability of our folks who served in split-second, life-and-death decisions overseas serving in combat to be able to, after a few days, make a decision with the information they're given whether they want representation or not, not being drug out in litigation for 2 years so they can protect their rights against employers previously cited in the 1 year. These are not the good actors. These are the bad actors.

I don't like the underlying bill. I'm trying to make it better. Why are we protecting the 1 percent of bad actors in this at the expense of a veteran who has the right to organize?

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WALZ of Minnesota. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I express my disappointment with the gentleman. I do respect his service, and we have a fond attachment to our veterans in getting this right.

Let me do something that doesn't happen down here very much to show you how small this is. I'll read you the entire amendment:

``The designated parties referred to in subparagraph (B) are employers that have been found liable for any labor law violation against a veteran of the Armed Forces during the 1-year period preceding the filing of a petition under this subsection. Such parties may not engage in the dilatory tactic of raising new issues or positions during a preelection hearing that were not raised prior to the commencement of the hearing.''

No matter how you feel about the underlying bill, if we really want to make this better and try and reach across together, maybe this is one area we could do it.

I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Do what's right. Pick off these bad employers so they can't engage in these tactics against veterans. Let's get our folks back to work and let's agree to disagree on the fundamental underlying bill on labor. On this one, we shouldn't.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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