Since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to sue the Boeing Co. for opening a new assembly line in my hometown of North Charleston, S.C., countless people have approached me regarding the situation. I want to share three numbers that go a long way toward showing what is threatening jobs - not just in South Carolina, but across our country.
c 6.9 percent: The percentage of our nation’s private-sector work force that belonged to a union in 2010.
If you are like me, you look at the numbers above and shake your head. Despite dwindling numbers, Big Labor drives a significant portion of work-force politics and policy decisions in our nation. Labor leaders are able to do so through a well-honed system of influencing workers and requiring many workers to accept membership in a union as a condition of employment, with fees ranging up to $800 annually. This amounts to more than $8 billion in membership dues annually in the private sector alone. Yet only 10 percent of current union employees voted to unionize in their workplace.
Since the era characterized by union boss Johnny Friendly in the 1950s classic film “On the Waterfront,” unions have resorted to various pressure tactics to influence the work force. Today, union leaders continue to seek far-reaching changes in the law to help them keep up the pressure. In fact, union-sponsored card-check legislation sought to eliminate union elections altogether. If a couple of union members could obtain your signature on a piece of paper, it counted as a vote, eliminating the need to hold an actual election. Thankfully, this legislation failed before Congress.
Now, to level the playing field for all workers, I have introduced the Employee Rights Act. This is not anti-union legislation but a mechanism to ensure that all workers have the ability to make their voices and opinions heard.
First and most important, the Employee Rights Act would give employees the right to a federally supervised secret-ballot election when deciding whether or not to join a union, and it would require a majority of all employees represented by the union, regardless of union membership, to approve a collective-bargaining agreement or a strike via a secret-ballot election prior to union leaders ordering one. By mandating secret ballots for these two scenarios, we can protect workers from intimidation and threats, which so often taint the process.
The bill also would require unions to stand for re-election every three years, as opposed to the current system, which all but guarantees the union forever. As proof of how hard it is to remove a union, 593 attempts to do so were processed by the NLRB in 2009 with fewer than half even receiving a vote and many being abandoned because of intimidation by union leaders.
This issue has gained added importance following the NLRB’s recently proposed rule that would allow union elections to be certified in as little as 10 days. Employees deserve more than 10 days to have their future and the future of prospective employees decided. The Employee Rights Act addresses this by requiring at least 40 days for election certification, which is the current average processing time.
Finally, my legislation also would give employees more power over how their dues were spent in support of political parties and advocacy organizations. Despite polls in 2010 showing union membership is 42 percent Republican, 93 percent of union contributions go to Democrats. Employees who don’t want their dues spent on political contributions are forced to undergo an onerous process to receive a refund. The act would change this so employees would need to opt-in in order for their dues to be used in this way.
Every one of these measures has polled at higher than 60 percent favorable this year and would ensure all workers’ voices were heard. We cannot allow Big Labor to drive policy, and we cannot allow more situations like the current NLRB case in South Carolina to occur. This legislation would go a long way toward remedying both.
Rep. Tim Scott is a South Carolina Republican.
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