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Statement of Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono Opposing H.R. 3094, the "Election Prevention Act"


Location: Washington, DC

It is sad for our country that today the U.S. House is voting on H.R. 3094, yet another bill to roll back workers' rights.

Today's bill does nothing for the number one issue on people's minds in Hawaii and around the country: creating new, good-paying jobs.

We're seeing unemployment on Hawaii Island at nearly 10 percent.

On Kauai, it's nearly 9 percent. In Maui County, it's nearly 8 percent.

Instead of addressing this top issue of jobs, today's bill is part of a continuing assault against organized labor around the country. This bill is just like the attacks we saw in Wisconsin and Ohio.

But Ohio's families said no.

And so do Hawaii's.

Because Hawaii families believe working men and women should be able to have a voice at the table.

This belief helped build the middle class in Hawaii and across our country through legislation enabling workers to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.

Congress should be focusing on creating jobs--

NOT making it easier for a few companies to prevent workers from having a voice in the workplace.

While most employers in Hawaii want to support their workers, I have heard from workers in Hawaii that some companies exploit the current system to prevent workers from having a voice in the workplace.

For example, in February 2003, National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge Gerald Wacknov ruled against a Hawaii business where a labor dispute had been going on for years.

In 2002, workers at this company, who had not been given a raise in six years, asked the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for help in organizing a union.

Judge Wacknov ruled that "the Employer's conduct prior to the election . . . substantially interfered with the employees' free choice."

In the run-up to the union election, the workers were forced to attend one-on-one or group meetings on work time, where the management could convince workers to vote against the union.

Under current law, we know that a company can talk to their workers at any time and urge them to vote against joining a union.

The company can scare workers into thinking that voting for a union will cost them their jobs.

Meanwhile, unions are not allowed to visit the worksite to make their case for joining a union.

They do not have access to complete contact information that will enable them to effectively contact workers.

This company even hired a private security firm and posted large, threatening security guards outside the voting area during the vote.

After Judge Wacknov's ruling in February 2003, the company appealed the decision. A year and a half later, in summer 2004 the overburdened National Labor Relations Board upheld Judge Wacknov's ruling and ordered a new election.

In August 2004, a second election was held for the company's workers, and a majority voted to join the union.

The company appealed yet again.

In February 2005, NLRB Administrative Law Judge James Rose found that the company had effectively stuffed the ballot box in its favor by unfairly adding ineligible voters.

In July 2005--40 months after a petition was first filed to hold an election--the NLRB Board finally certified the ILWU Local 142 as the union for the workers.

Still, the company has continued to offer appeal after appeal of the election's results.

It's now the end of 2011.

The workers still do not have their first bargaining contract for better wages and conditions.

Today's bill on the House floor would make this unfairness even worse.

H.R. 3094 would make it nearly impossible, in contested situations, for workers to come to the table and have a voice in the workplace by voting to join a union.

Nationwide, in contested cases, workers already have to wait an average of four months to vote whether to join a union. Various delays can already occur.

Today's bill would make this problem even worse. It would add an extra minimum waiting period of two weeks before a hearing, and five weeks before an election. This is in addition to the already long wait time.

And each day of delay allows an employer to continue to scare their employees into voting against a union.

Today's bill would add to the NRLB's paperwork burdens. H.R. 3094 would require the NLRB to hear frivolous appeals from a company to stop an election.

This would completely overwhelm the NRLB with thousands of frivolous appeals and delay elections even longer.

Clearly, the current system is already stacked against workers trying to have a voice at the table.

This bill should really be called the "Election Prevention Act."

I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against this bill.

Instead, let's stand with working men and women of this country and focus on what people really want--getting back to work.


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