06.29.17

Committee Democrats Denounce Republican Proposals to Roll Back Working People’s Right to Bargain for Better Wages

WASHINGTON – TODAY, Republicans on the Education and the Workforce Committee voted unanimously to advance three anti-union bills that sabotage workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain for better wages. At the same time, they blocked Democrats’ efforts to enact legislation that would give 22 million workers a raise through the enactment of an increase in the federal minimum wage. 

“Rather than considering anti-labor bills that strip workers of their ability to bargain for better wages and working conditions, we should be focusing on polices that promote economic security,” said Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03). “That’s precisely why I have introduced the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 15) to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. I urge the Chair to find time to take this bill up, instead of bills that weaken workers’ bargaining power and make it harder for Americans to join or stay in the middle class.”

While our economy is more productive than ever, workers have failed to see their fair share of these gains. Restoring unions’ strength is critical to helping hardworking Americans share in the wealth they help to create.

Yet, since Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they have convened 28 hearings and markups in the Committee aimed at undermining workers’ rights to bargain for a better life. They have also refused to hold any hearings on bills to raise the minimum wage. The once bipartisan recognition of the crucial role of unions in the American economy and democracy has been replaced by relentless partisan attacks.

“Today my Republican colleagues refused to address the central challenge facing American workers: In communities across the country, full-time employees are not making enough money to cover basic expenses, let alone raise a family or save for the future,” said Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41). “House Republicans and President Trump have repeatedly touted their support for American workers, but today’s vote is further evidence that their support for working families is limited to patronizing words of encouragement. American workers don’t need a pat on the head, they need laws that ensure their safety, protect their rights, and restore their ability to earn a living wage.”

Two of the anti-union bills passed today, misleadingly cloaked in “privacy,” “fairness,” and “democracy,” attack the union election process, a critical step toward workers joining together to gain a stronger voice in the workplace. The “Employee Privacy Protection Act” (H.R. 2775) (22-16) prohibits unions from having the same access to employees’ contact information as the employer during the election process, preventing employees from being fully informed about their choices in a union representation election.  The “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act” (H.R. 2776) (22-16) requires arbitrary waiting periods that delay elections and empowers employers to gerrymander the voting composition of bargaining units by adding voters who have expressed no interest in joining the union.

“Workers in America should be able to collectively bargain for fair wages, reasonable hours, safe workplaces, health care, and retirement benefits,” said Vice Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01). “The bills the Committee passed today threaten transparent collective bargaining practices. Instead of taking away workers' rights, we should be discussing policies that reduce income inequality and help hard-working Americans get ahead.”

The third bill, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (H.R. 986) (22-16), would strip workers of their protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) at any enterprise owned and operated by an Indian tribe and is located on tribal lands. This bill arises from a dispute between two competing principles: the sovereign rights that Indian tribes possess in matters of local self-governance, and the rights of workers to organize, bargain collectively, and engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has adopted, and courts have affirmed, a policy that carefully balances tribal sovereignty and workers’ rights. Similar to many other labor laws, the NLRB will not assert jurisdiction where it would interfere with a tribe’s intramural governance or abrogate treaty rights. The NLRB would protect workers’ rights at tribally-owned enterprises by asserting jurisdiction. Rather than attempting to reconcile these competing interests, however, H.R. 986 chooses sovereignty for some over the rights of workers. Both the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Union of Operating Engineers oppose the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

Economists agree that the rise of income inequality over the past forty years is linked to the decline of union membership. This is because unions allow employees the right to collectively bargain over their wages and conditions in the workplace, ensuring that productivity gains are more fairly shared throughout the economy. The bills passed today are a part of the Republicans ongoing campaign to prevent workers from organizing and bargain for better wages.

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FULL OPENING STATEMENT: Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03)

 ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSING LEGISLATION: AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Communications Workers of America, Department for Professional Employees, Economic Policy Institute Policy Center, National Education Association, and United Steelworkers

Press Contact

Kiara Pesante, 202-226-0853 (Scott)

Josh Weisz, 202-225-2305 (Takano)

Maggie Rousseau, 202-754-1649 (Bonamici)