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Hearing of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Education and The Workforce Committee - "Examining Proposals to Strengthen the National Labor Relations Act"


Location: Washington, DC

Over the last year, this committee has taken action on numerous occasions to defend the rights of workers and employers from the harmful agenda of the National Labor Relations Board. Most notably, we have passed legislation that would prohibit the NLRB from dictating the location of American businesses and advanced a bill that would preserve long-standing union election procedures that protect employer free speech and worker free choice.

I hope our colleagues in the Senate will soon see the value in these positive proposals and hold a vote without further delay. In the meantime, this committee must continue examining labor policies that affect the strength and competitiveness of America's workplaces. Toward that end, we will review today a number of decisions by the board, examine their impact on the workforce, and discuss legislative solutions offered by members of the committee.

As we all know, foremost on the minds of many workers are the ongoing challenges they face in this tough economy. Roughly 13 million Americans are unemployed and searching for work. Those fortunate to have a job watch helplessly as higher food and energy prices take more out of a paycheck that hasn't increased significantly in recent years. In fact, average hourly earnings for private-sector employees has risen less than $1 over the last two years.

No individual that works hard and earns a higher wage should be denied the fruits of his or her labor. Yet federal labor policy actually prevents union workers from receiving higher wages if they are not included in a collective bargaining agreement or agreed to by the union. Over the years, the board has found employers in violation of the law for signing bonuses, expanding pay for commissioned associates, and implementing incentive programs that reward good work.

I am pleased to support a bill introduced by our colleague from Indiana, Representative Todd Rokita, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act and permit employers to pay higher wages to their employees. The RAISE Act is commonsense reform that would provide relief to countless working families.

Workers are not only concerned about policies that keep their wages down, they also worry about efforts to undermine the democratic rights of the workplace. In its 2007 Dana decision, the NLRB strengthened worker access to a secret ballot in the event their employer voluntarily recognized a union. Recognizing that intimidation and coercion often associated with card-check campaigns undermine employee free choice, the board's decision provided employees 45 days to request a secret ballot election.

Remarkably, the Obama NLRB reversed this important pro-worker decision. Once an employer decides it is in his or her best interest to voluntarily recognize the union, some workers will be forced to wait years before participating in a free and fair union election. We often hear the Obama board has been diligently promoting the rights of workers. However, its decision to restrict access to the secret ballot exposes the harsh reality behind such false rhetoric.

The Secret Ballot Protection Act will end the assault on the secret ballot once and for all. The bill, which I introduced and am proud to have the support of 69 of my House Republican colleagues, amends the National Labor Relations Act to ensure unions have to first win the vote in a secret ballot election before they can represent workers.

Finally, the board is simultaneously advancing policies that restrict employer rights while also working to expand its jurisdiction over the sovereign affairs of Indian tribes. In the 2004 landmark San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino decision, the board overturned nearly thirty years of precedent in order to impose its authority on commercial activities owned and operated by Native Americans. The decision was issued with bipartisan support of the board members, which demonstrates that just because something is bipartisan doesn't mean it is good public policy.

We are honored to have with us today President Robert Odawi Porter, of the Seneca Nation of Indians, to discuss his experience with the board's flawed interpretation of the law and to express his support for the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. This important legislation, championed by our colleague from South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem would reassert the authority of tribal leaders over tribal affairs, free from NLRB intrusion.

There is a great deal of work to be done to make the NLRA more responsive to the needs of today's workplaces. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in that important effort.

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