The Senate labor committee chairman, Republican Lamar Alexander, condemned federal labor board officials Tuesday, saying they were moving against state right-to-work laws.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) called for legal briefs examining state right-to-work laws and whether unions should have the ability to extract dues payments from nonmembers. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, outlaws mandatory union membership or dues as a condition of employment.
“I will fight any effort by the NLRB to force workers to support a union and undermine state right-to-work laws,” Alexander declared in a statement. “This latest action is an outrageous move that threatens to jeopardize worker rights and job growth.”
Since issuing their request, critics have grown concerned the NLRB, which they say is biased towards organized labor, is signaling a plan to go after states that have enacted their own right-to-work laws. The concern of bias among labor board officials towards unions, which oppose right-to-work laws, has gone so far that the Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, has introduced the NLRB Reform Act in an effort to address the problem.
“Over the last 30 years we have seen first-hand in Tennessee how a right-to-work environment has helped to create a competitive automobile industry and higher family incomes while union shop states saw jobs disappear as companies looked for an environment in which they could successfully make and sell cars and trucks in our country and around the world,” Alexander continued.
A move by the NLRB against allowing states to decide whether each state wants to be right-to-work could potentially reverse almost 70 years of established laws under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which has allowed states to decide whether or not they want to be right-to-work.
“This is an ominous move and one which I will do everything in my power to stop,” Alexander concluded.
Supporters, however, argue that a move against state right-to-work laws would be fairer since unions have to represent all workers in a bargaining until, regardless of if they pay dues.
“The problem with the board’s rule is that it allows workers, in right-to-work states, to demand individual representation from the union (for example in grievance proceedings) while refusing to pay anything for that representation,” Harvard Law Professor Benjamin Sachs wrote for the blog OnLabor.org. “There is no seeming rationale for this inequity, and nothing in the federal labor law nor in state right-to-work laws requires it.”
Though the argument is popular among union supporters, others have argued the claims are very misleading, and that unions are actually not required under the Nation Labor Relations Act to represent nonmembers. Though unions are required to represent all workers if they choose to be the exclusive representative for a company, the union may also choose to be a member-only union, which only requires it to represent its workers.
“Federal law does not require a union to act as an exclusive representative,” James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, has previously argued. “The choice of whether to be an exclusive representative or member only remains with the union.”
Nevertheless, Americans for the most part approve of right-to-work laws. According to Gallup, union approval is at 53 percent while right-to-work is at 71 percent.
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