Radical Right House Republicans Work to Weaken Unions

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The radical right wing Republican majority on the ideologically polarized House Education and the Workforce Committee took aim at unions and the National Labor Relations Board – again – in a June 14 hearing on three anti-worker bills.

The assault, in the subcommittee which handles labor law rewrites, left Communications Workers General Counsel Guerino Calemine and subcommittee Democrats out on a limb against “a naked political assault on labor unions – and nothing more,” as Calemine put it.

The ruling Republicans trotted out a management-side labor lawyer, a speaker for the lobby for human resources departments, and a worker from Dixon, Ill., who alleged she was harassed during an organizing drive which ended with employer card-check recognition of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. One of the three GOP legislative schemes bans card-check, and even mailed-in ballots in union recognition votes, Calemine said.

The three measures are similar to Republican bills in prior Congresses. And they’re not the only anti-worker bills the GOP has dreamed up. One key red-state lawmaker, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., has authored a complete rewrite – actually an emasculation – of U.S. labor law.

Taken together, Calemine said, the three measures discussed at the session equal Roe’s bill.

Plus, red-state Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., dropped a bill in the hopper the week before the hearing, aimed at construction workers’ wages. Duncan would double the dollar threshold for exempting federal construction projects from the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage act.

In prior years, anti-worker measures made it out of the Education and the Workforce committee and then stalled. But now there’s a Republican, Donald Trump, in the White House, and total GOP congressional control. GOP lawmakers count on Trump to sign the measures.

“These bills are chock full of malicious intent to render (recognition) elections absurdly undemocratic, strip workers of rights, take control of unions away from members, drain union treasuries and otherwise destroy labor unions,” Calemine, the sole pro-worker witness, said.

• One scheme, HR2776 by Rep. Denny Walberg, R-Mich., would overturn the NLRB’s recent decisions that removed some pre-election obstacles bosses throw in the way of organizing campaigns – such as forcing NLRB decisions before the balloting on everything from who can vote to how they can vote to what tactics unions can’t use during campaigns.

Walberg’s bill bans any union recognition election for at least 35 days after the union files a recognition request. It also outlaws card-check recognition entirely. And it gives bosses two weeks “to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer and protects their right to raise additional concerns throughout the pre-election hearing,” a GOP fact sheet says.

Walberg, who chaired the hearing, claimed elections now could occur within 11 days of the union petition. “Limiting debate and stifling employer free speech for the sake of speeding up union elections was precisely what the board had in mind,” he alleged. “It’s no surprise union elections have been organized 38 percent faster since this new rule took effect.’

Walberg’s bill not only slows down the elections, but says the NLRB “must determine the appropriate group of employees to include in the union before the union is certified, as well as address any questions of voter eligibility.” Adding anti-union workers and questioning others’ right to vote is a common employer tactic to stall and kill pending votes. And Walberg outlaws what the GOP derisively terms “micro-unions,” where unions organize part of a plant.

• A second bill, HR2775 by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., curbs the information unions can get once they file for recognition elections, limiting them to names “and one additional piece of employee information,” chosen by the worker. HR2775 also says the employers can give the unions that data, called the Excelsior list, up to seven days before the election is scheduled.

That means, Calemine said, that literally the boss could give the union the list the night before, since Wilson’s bill has no minimum time for turning over the information. “And even if the employee wanted to provide more than one way to be contacted, to be sure of getting the information, the bill prohibits it,” Calemine pointed out.

“Since the employees make their choice” of how to be contacted “in writing to the employer, this is ripe for intimidation and coercion” and would make an election process already stacked against workers and unions even worse, he stated.

• HR2723, which Roe named “the Employee Rights Act,” forces unions to frequently stand for recertification – or, as his bill really means, decertification. And unions would need to get a majority of votes from all workers at a site to win, not just a majority of those voting.

That means “all non-votes are considered ‘no’ votes,” Calemine said, just as they were in union recognition elections at railroads and airlines under the Railway Labor Act. He called HR2723 “stuffing the ballot box” – and pointed out that Roe doesn’t impose the same rule for decertification elections, which can throw unions out.

Indeed, he said, the decert votes have lower barriers, are automatically ordered every year or when the plant or worksite grows by at least 50 percent, and don’t need a majority of everybody – just of voters -- to win. That “greases the skids” for deunionization, Calemine said.

Roe’s bill would also ban workers from even voluntary contributions for anything other than bargaining or union contract enforcement. The right calls that “paycheck protection,” but workers and unions call it “paycheck deception.” Its point is to rob unions of needed funds.

The GOP schemes drew protests from the outnumbered Democrats. But they were forced to object through tweets. “Respecting the rights of working Americans is essential to ensuring a fair economy,” one read, under the hashtag #ProtectWorkers. “Protecting workers’ rights to join a union is essential to reducing income inequality,” the other tweet stated. 



Posted In: Allied Approaches

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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