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Bills target micro-unions, organizing

Tennessee Republican favors voting in private rather than card check

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2013

House Republicans took another swing at the Obama administration Thursday, introducing two bills that would combat union activism on the part of the National Labor Relations Board.

The Secret Ballot Protection Act, introduced by Rep. David P. Roe, Tennessee Republican, would require workers to vote privately on whether to form a new union, as opposed to the card check process, a method that some fear opens workers up to intimidation from pro-union activists.

Mr. Roe said unions have been pushing for card check so that organizers can figure out who voted against them and convince them to change their vote.

But the Tennessee congressman said he believes strongly in the secret ballot.

"That's how I got elected," Mr. Roe said in an interview with a small group of reporters. "That's how the president got elected, and that's how unions ought to be elected.

"To let you know how important that is, my wife swears up and down she voted for me, but I don't know that for a fact," he said.

The second bill, the Representation Fairness Restoration Act, introduced by Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, in the House and Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, in the upper chamber, would prevent micro-unions from organizing at various companies.

Either bill would be a blow to unions and both will get a legislative hearing on June 26 before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Chairman John Kline, Minnesota Republican, hopes to move them out of the committee before the August break.

Mr. Price said "corrective measures" need to be taken to rein in the NLRB, which continues to issue decisions in labor disputes even though a federal court ruled members on the panel were illegally appointed by President Obama.

Micro-unions are small groups of employees that organize within a single company, but don't include all employees. Republican lawmakers argue they create problems for businesses that have to spend more time negotiating with multiple unions rather than focusing on one large group of organized workers.

They can also create divisions among employees as each micro-union within a company competes against other employees from the same company for the best wages, benefits, and hours, the lawmakers argue.

Not to mention, micro-unions can stunt career growth within a company, as employees find it difficult to move from a job that is covered by one union to another position that is covered by a different union.

"So if someone gets sick and you ask a guy in another department to fill, he says, 'Wait a minute, we have to renegotiate my contract.' By the time you get through that, the day's over," Mr. Isakson explained.

The Representation Fairness Restoration Act would make it more difficult for micro-unions to form. While employees would still be allowed to form multiple unions within a single company, the micro-unions would have to include all employees with similar wages, benefits, skills, job functions, and working conditions.

Republican lawmakers say the bill would "encourage unity and harmony" in the workplace.

The House passed a similar bill that placed restrictions on micro-unions in 2011, but it died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Little has changed since then that would give the bill a better chance of getting through the Senate, but Sen. Isakson said he is not deterred.

"On these bills, it's not likely that (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid would let it come to the floor, but lightning has struck before," Mr. Isakson said. "I learned a long time ago, why should I quit fighting for what's right just because somebody else is probably not going to let it come to the floor? My job is to stay positive. I'm not a quitter."

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