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Public Statements

Rights of Workers to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MILLER of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, around the world, the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively through a representative of their choosing, with their employer, over wages and benefits and conditions of employment, is recognized as an important human right and as a hallmark of democratic societies. But in the United States those rights have been under assault by some politicians and by some employers who want to turn the clock back three-quarters of a century.

When workers want to join a union here and bargain collectively with their employer, too many employers intentionally delay and delay, abusing the legal system to deny their employees the rights that we scold developing nations for denying their workers.

I rise in support of the proposed National Labor Relations Board rule to streamline and modernize union election procedures, an important and overdue step to restore fairness to our inefficient and outdated system that has allowed too many abuses. The new NLRB rule would speed up union elections, giving employers less opportunity to interfere illegally with organizing drives. The rule also allows smaller groups of workers to form unions.

Under the current NLRB system, employers willing to break the law have many opportunities to delay a union election, stretching out the time period when they can intimidate and coerce workers, all in violation of the law. The effect of this rule is to help workers exercise their free choice to join and be represented by a union without illegal interference.

Streamlining NLRB elections is a long overdue and small step to ensure workers the right to speak with one voice to a representative of their choosing.

But, Mr. Speaker, in the last week we have heard that Brian Hayes, the only Republican member of the NLRB board, NLRB, is threatening to resign specifically to deny the board the quorum to act under the law, to deny the board the quorum to perform the duties that the law places upon them. Republicans in this Congress have now tried to defund the NLRB to take away the NLRB's ability to impose sanctions on employers who violate the law, and now they are trying to shut the board down altogether by abusing the other body's advice and consent powers to block any new appointments to the board and by having a Republican member resign specifically to deny the necessary quorum to act.

Today, we are considering the so-called Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act; and despite that Orwellian name, the bill is designed to do the exact opposite. It is intended to deny workers the right to unionize without delay and litigation, to deny those rights through delay and litigation and by allowing employers to decide which employees, which workers get to vote on whether there is a union or not to stuff the ballot box, under this bill, to add new workers to the unit that will decide whether to have a union or not.

Under the bill there would be a waiting period, if there is an election dispute, whether it's well grounded or frivolous, a waiting period for preelection hearing, a waiting period for unions to receive the better contact list; and the only goal for that, for those waiting periods, is delay. The arbitrary waiting periods ensure that election will be delayed, and nowhere is there any assurance the election will really be held.

My Republican colleagues blame frivolous lawsuits for many of the ills of our country; but this bill would reward frivolous lawsuits by providing more time for employers to find fault, real or fabricated, with the election process; and by blocking the NLRB's current rule that would allow elections to move ahead before the complaints are resolved, this bill would allow employers to use litigation, frivolous or legitimate, to block elections.

Finally, this bill would allow employers to stuff the ballot box with a radical rewrite of our labor law so that the employer would decide which employees, which workers get to vote. They can add employees who were never engaged in the organizing drive, and they can keep the list of voters of the workers eligible to vote from those supporting a union until just before the election.

American workers deserve the same rights that we urge around the world for workers, the right to form a union, the right to speak with one voice and bargain with their employer so that our workers can win better wages and better benefits and rebuild the American middle class.

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