The Em­ployee Rights Act op­por­tu­nity for Trump

There’s no down­side to back­ing a bill that em­pow­ers union mem­bers

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Richard Ber­man Richard Ber­man is the pres­i­dent of Ber­man and Com­pany, a pub­lic re­la­tions firm in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

On Tues­day, the House Com­mit­tee on Ed­u­ca­tion and the Work­force is hold­ing a hear­ing on the Em­ployee Rights Act (ERA). This pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, re­cently rein­tro­duced by Rep. Phil Roe, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, is the perfect ve­hi­cle for Pres­i­dent Trump to re­gain his leg­isla­tive mo­men­tum. It is eas­ily un­der­stood, over­whelm­ingly pop­u­lar, and would im­prove em­ployee lives on the job — es­pe­cially those in the Great Lake states where union mem­bers who put him into of­fice also sup­port the ERA idea.

The ERA would be the big­gest up­date to Amer­i­can la­bor law since the 1940s while be­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary in its sim­plic­ity. Two of the eight ERA pro­vi­sions guar­an­tee the right to se­cret bal­lots in union elec­tions and on de­ci­sions to strike. Con­sider that roughly 40 per­cent of work­places are taken over by unions through well­doc­u­mented em­ployee pres­sure cam­paigns not un­like be­ing ha­rassed to sign a pe­ti­tion. The lack of vot­ing pri­vacy re­sults in em­ploy­ees who would not agree to union­ize hav­ing their co­erced sig­na­ture trig­ger an af­fir­ma­tive “vote.”

To fur­ther in­crease work­place democ­racy, the ERA re­quires a union revote af­ter sub­stan­tial work­force turnover. The data demon­strates that 90 per­cent of union mem­bers never voted for the union that rep­re­sents them. Given turnover, many work­places have zero em­ploy­ees who voted for the union that re­ceives their dues. Yet an­nu­ally only 1 per­cent of lo­cal union lead­er­ship face a re-elec­tion vote. The ob­vi­ous ques­tion is: Why aren’t there more em­ployee-trig­gered revotes? The an­swer: well­doc­u­mented in­tim­i­da­tion. The ERA will pro­vide sched­uled revotes much like con­gres­sional elec­tions to af­firm or deny cur­rent rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

The ERA also prevents forced fund­ing of po­lit­i­cal causes. Exit polling data shows more than 40 per­cent of union house­holds voted for Pres­i­dent Trump. Yet nearly all the mil­lions unions spend from forced dues pay­ments go to left-lean­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions. The ERA re­in­forces the no­tion that you shouldn’t have your dues money taken for po­lit­i­cal is­sues un­less you have pre­vi­ously agreed to make those con­tri­bu­tions.

The ERA’s sim­plic­ity works to Mr. Trump’s ad­van­tage. To ex­plain his tax and health care pro­pos­als he needs econ­o­mists and pol­icy wonks. To sup­port his po­si­tion on global warm­ing he needs cli­ma­tol­o­gists. For the ERA he only needs com­mon sense and trig­gers like “democ­racy” to pro­mote his re­lief to Amer­i­can work­ers.

What does the ERA not do? It does not at­tack the right to join a union or pre­vent one from be­ing or­ga­nized. There is no at­tack on col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, se­nior­ity or griev­ance pro­ce­dures. When union lead­ers tell their mem­bers that the ERA is anti-union they are as disin­gen­u­ous as many have been when promis­ing the moon if they sign up for a dues-pay­ing mem­ber­ship.

The ERA is un­con­tro­ver­sial and unusu­ally pop­u­lar leg­is­la­tion. Its eight pro­vi­sions pivot around 80 per­cent fa­vor­a­bil­ity. And that sup­port in­cludes self-iden­ti­fied Democrats and mem­bers of union house­holds.

Any is­sue that polls 80 per­cent fa­vor­able across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum is a po­lit­i­cal di­a­mond hid­ing in plain sight — ex­actly what Mr. Trump needs right now.

Union bosses’ op­po­si­tion is to be ex­pected. They are much like politi­cians fight­ing term lim­its, seek­ing to avoid los­ing their jobs through a revote, which to­day is rare.

Demo­cratic mem­bers of Congress are wrestling with the con­flict of vot­ing their lib­eral be­liefs ver­sus the threat of a union-funded Demo­cratic can­di­date in a pri­mary. Ques­tion: Would their vot­ers turn them out for seek­ing to ex­tend ba­sic prin­ci­ples of democ­racy? Call­ing it “anti-union” is a lame and dis­hon­est refuge. Our en­tire demo­cratic sys­tem pro­vides or­ga­nized and reg­u­larly sched­uled votes ex­cept for those few of­fice­hold­ers who get life­time ap­point­ments. Sim­i­larly, there is no other sys­tem — other than tax­a­tion — where peo­ple’s money can be taken from them to fund causes they don’t sup­port.

As for mem­bers who have an “R” af­ter their name, they have no such con­flicts. For those who refuse to sup­port the law, the RINO, or Repub­li­can In Name Only, des­ig­na­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate. How can mem­bers run for of­fice of “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” and then refuse to rep­re­sent the views of their con­stituents? This isn’t a 60-40 is­sue pro­vid­ing some wig­gle room. It’s an 80-20 split in fa­vor of work­place democ­racy. A Repub­li­can ob­ject­ing to th­ese ideals is an em­bar­rass­ment. Af­ter all, this is the party that ended slav­ery.

And as for those mem­bers who fear of­fend­ing union al­lies and their PACs, re­mem­ber the ad­vice of for­mer Demo­cratic Cal­i­for­nia Assem­bly Speaker Jesse Un­ruh: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them, you’ve got no busi­ness be­ing up here.”


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