At every turn, organized labor has been there, fighting on behalf of the American people.
But today, instead of implementing policies that strengthen the middle class, Republicans in Congress are pushing a bill to stop the National Labor Relations Board from modernizing its procedures because it just might help – yes, I said help – America’s workers.
Coming out of the Great Depression, America’s labor unions helped build America’s strong middle class. For half a century, as America’s union membership went up, America’s median family income went up, and that was true for families whether they were part of a union or not.
Since 1935, Congress has required the National Labor Relations Board to oversee the workplace elections in which workers decide whether to be represented by a union. More than 90 percent of the time when there’s an election, it all goes smoothly. Employees and employers agree about the process, and an election is held without dispute. Done.
But, in the remaining cases, the rules on how to resolve these concerns have turned into a mess. Over time, a hodgepodge of different rules for resolving these disputes emerged in each of the country’s 26 NLRB regions.
To fix this, the NLRB recently finalized national rules that set out the procedures for resolving pre-election issues and conducting elections. In other words, the NLRB is trying to make dispute resolution clearer, more efficient and more consistent from region to region. This is good for workers.
Trying to make government work better shouldn’t be controversial. But it is controversial. Why? Because some employers like the broken tangled rules. They have learned that they can game the system and oppose union votes all together. They don’t want the NLRB to work, so they are lobbying against these new rules.
And Congressional Republicans are standing up for them, advancing a proposal to stop the NLRB from implementing its final rules.
Republicans claim they’re concerned about workers being able to “ambush” their employers with workplace elections. That’s just plain nonsense.
Let’s be honest – the only ambush here is the Republican ambush on worker’s basic rights.
According to a 2011 study from the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, long election delays correspond with higher rates of labor law violations. A delay gives anti-union employers more time to retaliate against union organizers and to intimidate workers.
So it comes down the question I’ve asked before: who does this Congress work for?
Republicans say government should keep on working for employers who don’t like unions and who have figured out how to exploit a tangled system. They complain about government inefficiencies, but then they introduce a bill that is specifically designed so that a broken, inefficient system will stay broken and inefficient – even when we know how to fix it.
But we weren’t sent here just to represent employers who don’t like unions. We’re here to support working people who just want a fighting chance to level the playing field.