Democratic presidential candidate and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders introduced a bill Tuesday to make it much easier for unions to organize workers.
The Workplace Democracy Act is designed to strengthen unions by changing how workplace elections are held. It would also make penalties more severe from companies that get in the way of unionizing campaigns. Sanders and bill cosponsor Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan argue stronger unions will ultimately help workers and the middle class.
“Millions of Americans who want to join unions are unable to do so because of the coercive and often illegal behavior of their employers,” Sanders said in a statement. “If we are serious about reducing income and wealth inequality and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to substantially increase the number of union jobs in this country.”
Bernie also claims workers that join unions have higher wages, better benefits and a more secure retirement. Claims that have been disputed by groups like the Manhattan Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Heritage Foundation.
A main focus of the measure would be the implementation of a union election process known as card check. The bill would do this by allowing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a union if a majority of eligible workers sign authorization cards. Critics, however, have argued card check suppresses workers from freely expressing their views on unionizing. As the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted, this is because signing cards instead of a secret ballot election makes votes public knowledge and in turn makes workers opposed to the union open to intimidation.
The bill would also require companies to begin negotiating within 10 days of a union being certificated. Additionally, if no contract is reached after the first 90 days, either the union or employer can request compulsory mediation. After 30 days of mediation, any lingering issues will be decided by a binding arbitration process.
With Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the measure is unlikely to get passed. Republican leadership like Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. John Kline have already tried to rein in policy changes issued by NLRB and the Department of Labor which strengthen unions. They have argued on numerous occasions the policies benefit unions at the expense of workers and their employers.
Likewise the WAGE Act, introduced last month by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott is also likely to face an uphill battle in Congress. The measure increases penalties for employers which are guilty of unfair labor practices.
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