GOP Congressmen Propose Bill Trashing Labor Law, Workers’ Rights

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Maybe it was only just a matter of time, but Congress’ ruling Republicans, not content with picking off workers’ rights one by one, are launching a concerted effort to trash federal labor law – and workers’ rights – wholesale.

Leaders are Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the #4 Republican on the ideologically polarized House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., both from deep-red, union-hostile states. Roe frequently authors anti-worker and anti-union measures.

If they succeed, Roe, Isakson and their colleagues would accomplish the most-comprehensive – but worst, from workers’ point of view – rewrite of the National Labor Relations Act since the GOP-run Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over Democratic President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947.  Taft-Hartley gutted many NLRA protections.

Isakson’s bill deals with one issue: He would outlaw what the GOP calls “micro-unions,” where a 2011 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling lets unions organize groups of workers within a plant, in lieu of the whole plant. He has Republican leadership support.

“The National Labor Relations Board decided to tip the scales in favor of unions, rather than allowing employees and managers within an organization to negotiate to best meet the needs of customers and workers alike,” Isakson charged.

Roe’s so-called “Employee Rights Act,” goes a lot farther.

The Tennessean would not only outlaw card-check recognition of unions, but would create a national “right to work” law. And Roe would let “free riders” – the RTW users who don’t have to pay one red cent for union services – vote in union elections.

Other specifics of Roe’s legislation include:


            • Banning card-check recognition of unions, even when they achieve a signed majority election authorization cards in a workplace.  Roe would allow secret-ballot votes, only.


            • Requiring the union, in those secret-ballot votes, win an outright majority of all workers, not just of those voting. The GOP inserted a similar provision, over union and worker objections, in the Railway Labor Act, which covers airline and rail workers, several years ago.


            • If a bargaining unit grows by at least 50 percent after the contract is signed, the NLRB must conduct a new union certification election there within 110-120 days of the end of the contract or within three years of the contract’s signing, whichever is earlier. Though Roe does not use the word, the bill’s language makes clear that it would be a decertification vote to throw the union out. 

            • Employers will have to furnish only names and home addresses of workers to unions that submit enough cards to petition for an election – and anyone can ask the boss to be kept off the list. The NLRB’s rules call for turnover of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, too.  And Roe would overturn another recent NLRB rule, and order the agency to solve all company election challenges to the campaign and to workers’ eligibility before the vote can occur.


            • ‘‘Any labor organization found to have interfered with, restrained, or coerced employees in the exercise of their rights…to form or join a labor organization or to refrain therefrom, including the filing a decertification petition, shall be liable for wages lost and union dues or fees collected unlawfully, if any, and an additional amount as liquidated damages.” The union found guilty in that case during a decert drive can’t file objections to the vote, either.


            • Unless workers “opt in” in writing for using their money for other purposes, the union can’t use their “dues, fees, assessments or other contributions” for anything other than collective bargaining and administering contracts – i.e. handling grievances.


            • Strikes are banned unless “a majority of all represented unit employees affected, determined by a secret ballot vote conducted by a neutral, private organization,” votes for them. That balloting would include the free riders. And the workers would be forced to vote, at the union’s expense, on the employer’s last offer, before taking a strike vote.


            • Anyone convicted of using “force or violence” during an organizing drive, or threatening to would face a $100,000 fine, 10 years in jail, or both. Current labor law penalties against employers are far smaller and have no jail time.  


Roe alleged Democratic President Barack Obama attacked workers rights, in favor of unions. He claimed his bill would “foster a pro-growth, pro-employee environment,” adding his bill "will ensure individuals' rights are upheld when considering whether or not they wish to join a union.”

Roe’s new measure tracks anti-worker planks in the 2016 GOP platform. His similar, but less-comprehensive, rewrites of the nation’s basic labor law in the last three Congresses went nowhere because Republicans knew Obama would veto them. But new Republican President Donald Trump is another story. He backs RTW, but has yet to comment on the overall labor law rewrite that Roe has authored, or on Isakson’s anti-micro unions bill.

Co-lead sponsors of Roe’s scheme are Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. – the infamous shouter of “You lie!” at Obama’s health care speech -- and  Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., Rob Woodall, R-Ga., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C.


Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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