The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), today held a hearing to examine reforms to improve the National Labor Relations Act. During the hearing, members discussed legislative proposals to protect workers' access to secret ballot union elections and prevent the proliferation of micro-unions.
"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," said Rep. Roe. "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."
Reforms to federal labor law remain a priority for House Republicans, especially in light of the activist agenda promoted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). For example, the board's Specialty Healthcare decision discarded decades of labor policy to encourage the creation of multiple micro-unions within a single business.
Eric Oppenheim, chief operating officer and franchisee at Republic Foods, said the board's decision "will needlessly harm employee morale, deprive employees of valuable training and development, and compel employers to manage unnecessarily small bargaining units of similar employees." Mr. Oppenheim continued, "The Specialty decision would be detrimental to employee work-life balance because small, superfluous bargaining units will mean fewer shifts available to employees."
The board's decision is harmful to job creators as well. Former NLRB General Counsel Jerry Hunter stated the board's decision "will not only make it more costly for an employer to operate, but may also result in layoffs and possible closure of the employer facility employers would find themselves at increased risk of work stoppages at the hands of multiple unions each of which could halt the employer's operations if their bargaining demands were not met."
To help rein in the board's misguided decision, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) introduced the Representation Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 2347). The bill would restore the traditional standard for determining which group of employees should be included in a proposed union.
Members also discussed legislation that would guarantee a worker's right to a secret ballot union election. Under current law, workers can organize through a "card check' campaign, in which workers can be pressured to publicly declare their support for union representation. When a simple majority of workers sign an authorization card -- by free choice or not -- the union is then recognized with the employer's consent; employees are not able to vote in a secret ballot election.
Marlene Felter, a medical records coder from California, described how she and her coworkers were denied a secret ballot election and were almost forced to accept union representation they did not support. "How can companies like Chapman be coerced into neutrality and card check agreements that allow employees to be harassed and stalked by union representatives?" asked Mrs. Felter. "In our case, SEIU operatives followed employees to the floors in the hospital, harassed them to get signatures, and caused workplace disruptions and even a decline in the quality of patient care."
As Glenn Taubman, attorney with National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, explained during his testimony, "Employees' right to a secret ballot election should not be a bargaining chip between power hungry union officials and employers desperate to avoid a corporate campaign."
To help ensure workers like Ms. Felter no long face pressure and intimidation in union organizing campaigns, Rep. Roe introduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act (H.R. 2346). The bill would require a secret ballot election to certify or decertify a union. "We owe it to every hard-working American to ensure this fundamental right is preserved in the workplace," concluded Rep. Roe.
To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of today's hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.