- - Monday, July 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump’s choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate will only intensify Big Labor’s attacks against him.

Mr. Pence supports right to work, opposes prevailing wage laws and has advocated against minimum wage increases. He’s also a staunch supporter of free trade.

According to AFL-CIO spokesperson Josh Goldstein, Mr. Pence (and the rest of Mr. Trump’s vice president potentials) “throw a brick at the house of cards Trump’s tried to build to appeal to working families.”

Even before the Pence pick, Mr. Trump was taking fire from union leaders. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has criticized him on multiple occasions for being anti-union and shedding “crocodile tears about lost jobs and shuttered factories.”

To shut down this line of attack, Mr. Trump must explain how he plans to make America great again for employees. If I were advising him, this is what I would suggest he say:

I’m not anti-union. I’m not pro-union. My position transcends this debate: I am pro-employee. I’m not bashing unions; however, I do believe we need to update labor laws that haven’t been substantially changed in generations.

To do this, workplaces need a greater emphasis on individual rights and democracy. Employees must be empowered to easily decide for themselves whether they want their workplaces to be unionized, and if they want their union dues going to special-interest groups.

This means guaranteeing a secret ballot vote as a condition for unionization. Too often today, people are denied a vote before they have to start paying monthly dues to a club they didn’t elect to join. More than one-third of workplaces today are still unionized through an undemocratic process called “card check,” where paid labor organizers can use deceptive means to persuade employees to sign cards that trigger compulsory unionization rather than an election.

I also support a regularly scheduled re-vote on union representation after substantial workforce turnover so that current employees are not bound by decisions made by former employees who voted in favor of a union many years ago. At the moment, less than 10 percent of unionized employees actually voted for the union collecting their dues.

Union employees should also have the freedom to stop their dues money from being spent on politics without their prior consent. The popular belief that most union members are Democrats is not true — my primary wins are evidence of that. Exit polls from the 2012 election show that 43 percent of union households voted for Republican House candidates, even though 91 percent of union political support went to support Democrats.

In 2016, no employee should have to choose between keeping their political beliefs and keeping their job.

Finally, I support protecting employees from union threats. Working in the real estate business in New York, I have seen firsthand how unions sometimes use thuggery to achieve their goals. At the moment, such violence and threats aren’t always criminalized because of a ruling that often exempts unions from federal laws against the use of violence. This is unacceptable. Violence should be illegal no matter who commits it.

These are not anti-union positions. They do not attack the right to unionize, prevent the right to strike, or impede collective bargaining. More importantly. they are supported by 80 percent of union households. (They poll at similar levels among Hispanics, Independents and Democratic voters.) And yet the union leaders who oppose my candidacy struggle to explain why they are opposed to these reform. My guess is that it’s their congenital allegiance to the Democratic Party.

By opposing these changes, union leaders keep the dues cash coming in (equaling billions of dollars per year), and capture more new money from unionized employees. This money then gets used to support politicians who refuse to update labor law to protect employees. It’s a backscratching exercise that is the definition of cronyism.

There’s legislation that is currently before Congress that would make the reforms I’ve championed here a reality. It’s called the Employee Rights Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, and Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican. It would update labor law for the 21st century, and significantly increase the workplace freedoms of all employees.

I continue to be accused by Big Labor of being anti-union. Flip that coin: I’m pro-employee.

Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.

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