- - Monday, June 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce is holding a hearing on the Employee Rights Act (ERA). This proposed legislation, recently reintroduced by Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, is the perfect vehicle for President Trump to regain his legislative momentum. It is easily understood, overwhelmingly popular, and would improve employee lives on the job — especially those in the Great Lake states where union members who put him into office also support the ERA idea.

The ERA would be the biggest update to American labor law since the 1940s while being revolutionary in its simplicity. Two of the eight ERA provisions guarantee the right to secret ballots in union elections and on decisions to strike. Consider that roughly 40 percent of workplaces are taken over by unions through well-documented employee pressure campaigns not unlike being harassed to sign a petition. The lack of voting privacy results in employees who would not agree to unionize having their coerced signature trigger an affirmative “vote.”

To further increase workplace democracy, the ERA requires a union revote after substantial workforce turnover. The data demonstrates that 90 percent of union members never voted for the union that represents them. Given turnover, many workplaces have zero employees who voted for the union that receives their dues. Yet annually only 1 percent of local union leadership face a re-election vote. The obvious question is: Why aren’t there more employee-triggered revotes? The answer: well-documented intimidation. The ERA will provide scheduled revotes much like congressional elections to affirm or deny current representation.

The ERA also prevents forced funding of political causes. Exit polling data shows more than 40 percent of union households voted for President Trump. Yet nearly all the millions unions spend from forced dues payments go to left-leaning organizations. The ERA reinforces the notion that you shouldn’t have your dues money taken for political issues unless you have previously agreed to make those contributions.

The ERA’s simplicity works to Mr. Trump’s advantage. To explain his tax and health care proposals he needs economists and policy wonks. To support his position on global warming he needs climatologists. For the ERA he only needs common sense and triggers like “democracy” to promote his relief to American workers.

What does the ERA not do? It does not attack the right to join a union or prevent one from being organized. There is no attack on collective bargaining, seniority or grievance procedures. When union leaders tell their members that the ERA is anti-union they are as disingenuous as many have been when promising the moon if they sign up for a dues-paying membership.

The ERA is uncontroversial and unusually popular legislation. Its eight provisions pivot around 80 percent favorability. And that support includes self-identified Democrats and members of union households.

Any issue that polls 80 percent favorable across the political spectrum is a political diamond hiding in plain sight — exactly what Mr. Trump needs right now.

Union bosses’ opposition is to be expected. They are much like politicians fighting term limits, seeking to avoid losing their jobs through a revote, which today is rare.

Democratic members of Congress are wrestling with the conflict of voting their liberal beliefs versus the threat of a union-funded Democratic candidate in a primary. Question: Would their voters turn them out for seeking to extend basic principles of democracy? Calling it “anti-union” is a lame and dishonest refuge. Our entire democratic system provides organized and regularly scheduled votes except for those few officeholders who get lifetime appointments. Similarly, there is no other system — other than taxation — where people’s money can be taken from them to fund causes they don’t support.

As for members who have an “R” after their name, they have no such conflicts. For those who refuse to support the law, the RINO, or Republican In Name Only, designation is appropriate. How can members run for office of “representative” and then refuse to represent the views of their constituents? This isn’t a 60-40 issue providing some wiggle room. It’s an 80-20 split in favor of workplace democracy. A Republican objecting to these ideals is an embarrassment. After all, this is the party that ended slavery.

And as for those members who fear offending union allies and their PACs, remember the advice of former Democratic California Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being up here.”

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

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