A story in the Wall Street Journal summed up the economic challenges many continue to face. In an article entitled "Some Unemployed Keep Losing Ground," reporter Ben Cassleman writes: "The recession ended four years ago. But for many job seekers, it hasn't felt like much of a recovery." Despite recent progress in the job market, Cassleman notes, "The trouble is that the pace is still far too slow to fill quickly the huge hole created by the recession."
We all want to turn the page on an economy where 12 million Americans are searching for work and families are living paycheck to paycheck. Reforming federal laws -- especially those with a significant effect on the workforce -- is vitally important to meeting that goal, which brings us to the focus of our hearing. The National Labor Relations Act affects the lives of virtually every private-sector worker and job creator across the country. The legislative proposals we are examining today will help strengthen the law's protections.
First, the Representation Fairness Restoration Act will preserve unity and harmony in workplaces by rolling back the National Labor Relations Board's Specialty Healthcare decision. Union leaders have long wanted to organize small groups of employees as a first step toward organizing an entire workplace. For years the NLRB rejected those efforts by requiring employees that share a community of interest be included in the proposed union; only employees with distinct interests were not included.
The Obama board is now imposing a radically different approach. Under its new standard, the NLRB will approve almost every group of employees selected by the union -- no matter how small. As a result, labor bosses will gerrymander workplaces, employers will be buried in union red tape, and employees will have fewer opportunities to advance their careers.
Introduced by Representative Tom Price, H.R. 2347 would restore the traditional standard for determining which workers are included in a bargaining unit. The NLRB will have to do more than rubber stamp the list of employees picked by union leaders. The NLRB will have to consider factors such as wages, skills, working conditions, and job functions when determining which unit of employees is appropriate -- just as it did before the Specialty decision. The policies reflected in the bill worked well for decades and should continue to govern union organizing efforts.
Also before the committee today is the Secret Ballot Protection Act. As the title of the bill suggests, it would require a secret ballot election before a union can be certified or decertified. This will eliminate the threat posed by past attempts to expand the flawed card check scheme where workers are pressured to publicly declare their support -- or opposition -- to union representation. We can all imagine the chilling effect this has on workers.
My name has appeared on numerous ballots in recent years. While my wife swears she voted for me each time, I'll never be able to prove it. That's because the secret ballot affords everyone the freedom to vote their conscience in privacy, without fear of retribution or coercion. We owe it to every hard-working American to ensure this fundamental right is preserved in the workplace.
I want to thank the Senior Democratic Member for his comments at a hearing held last year on a similar proposal. Mr. Andrews said it was his view that the bill introduced last Congress did not apply equally to union certification and decertification. He always makes a strong case and I appreciate his concerns. Workers are just as susceptible to intimidation when disbanding a union as they are when forming one. The bill before us has been amended to ensure that, regardless of the circumstances, workers enjoy the protections of a secret ballot.
The comments offered by my colleague last year highlight the importance of this hearing. Our witnesses play an invaluable role in that effort, as does every member.