By U.S. Congressman Tom Marino
In 2008, Barack Obama said, “Politics didn’t lead me to working folks; working folks led me to politics.” One might interpret this statement as: working folks are the backbone of economy. However, after seven years of fluffy sound bites, the President’s policies have failed employees in Pennsylvania and across the country.
The American worker has expressed a desire for new thinking and reforms to a system they continue to lose confidence in. The current administration is convinced that broader unionization is the solution, however, in many cases, unions are proving to be the problem.
Stories of union abuses continue to be uncovered throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation.
And democrat politicians have gotten comfortable with the current arrangement and receive tremendous backing from big labor bosses in exchange for maintaining the status quo. Meanwhile employees’ have well-founded concerns, which have fallen only on deaf ears by the very organizations that are supposed to represent them.
Cases of intimidation and even violence against employees who oppose greater unionization or work toward decertification are increasingly prevalent. Yet, such actions are not classified as federal crimes.
Many employees are also concerned that their dues, which they expect to go toward collective bargaining and similar functions, are being squandered on political causes with which they strongly disagree. Still others are finding their union is failing their most basic requests while enjoying immunity from removal at the workplace.
Despite these circumstances and embarrassingly low approval, unions are now pushing to enter retail, food service, domestic service, and other economic sectors.
It is more important than ever to institute reasonable and modern policy changes to reinvigorate the American worker and empower them to lead once again. It would be an unpardonable wrong to allow workers in new industries to be seduced by a union only to find themselves in the same situation as millions of our current workers.
Congress has a solution. It is called The Employee Rights Act. It would provide the necessary updates to U.S. labor laws, which an overwhelming majority of employees say they want. It includes provisions like:
- The right to a federally supervised, secret ballot when deciding whether to join or stick with a union, as well as on any vote to strike.
- Federal criminalization of union threats, intimidation, and violence.
- The right to privacy, so unions cannot access home addresses and other information about employees who would prefer not to be contacted.
- A requirement that workers must “opt in” before their dues can be used for politics.
Among the provisions, perhaps the most important reform is the requirement for a union recertification vote whenever a majority of the workforce turns over. Rather than being stuck with an organization from yesteryear, current employees would finally be offered the chance to vote up or down on their own unions. This is undeniably critical to restoring the confidence of America’s employees by strengthening, defending and amplifying their voice.
Yet President Obama, who has long claimed to be their advocate, says he would veto the bill. That threat will not deter us for it only proves to be evidence of his ineffective, old school thinking. He and his Democrat colleagues can keep their 1940s mindset. But in the age of coworker.com petitions and S corporation employee stock ownership, Republicans in Congress will lead by embracing solutions, which acknowledge numerous models for increasing employee engagement.
Workers should not be coerced to follow the narrow union road paved by bankrolling one-sided candidates while ignoring the needs of their members. They must be given the right to self-determination and a safe, fair process to decide what works best for them. If President Obama truly respects employees, he will join us in supporting these protections and get behind the Employee Rights Act.
I am proud to support this important legislation that empowers employees and allows them to regain a voice in shaping the future for themselves and their families.
Rep. Tom Marino represents the 10th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives.