Both workers and voters seem to be turning away from unions, and big labor is worried.
Earlier this month, Wisconsin, once a union stronghold, voted to become a right-to-work state. This means that union membership and dues can’t be required as a condition of employment. Wisconsin is now the 25th state to offer workers this right, following on the heels of industrial powerhouses Michigan and Indiana, which enacted similar laws in 2012.
Union membership is also on the decline. Less than 7 percent of private-sector workers were union members in 2014, a huge drop from the 1954 peak of 34.8 percent.
It’s little wonder that labor is looking to friends in high places to help advance its agenda. And the administration is all too happy to help. Through federal agencies and unelected bodies like the National Labor Relations Board, the administration seeks to dramatically overhaul labor law in favor of union allies.
Take the NLRB’s “ambush election” rule to significantly shorten the time between a union filing a request for an election and the date the election is actually held. Accelerating the union election process deprives employers of their right to communicate with their employees about the impacts of unionizing. Congress is exercising its authority under the Congressional Review Act to invalidate the rule — but the president is sure to veto any legislation that rolls back the regulation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups filed a lawsuit challenging the rule, and we’ll fight it in the courts.
Another NLRB special is an effort to rewrite the “joint employer standard.” The proposal would upend a clear-cut and long-standing employment standard and redefine who employs a worker, fundamentally altering relationships in the franchising industry and between companies and contractors. To what end? To provide an opening for unionization efforts. For example, under the proposed standard, successfully organizing a single franchise could force the corporate entity to the bargaining table.
Now, workers should have the right to unionize — or choose not to — under clear and fair rules. And business supports legitimate proposals to ensure the health, safety and rights of its workers.
What we don’t support is a politically driven agenda that attempts to repeal the rights of business and tilt the playing field in the unions’ favor. That’s why the Chamber of Commerce is working to fix broken rules and overturn bad proposals and pooling its resources with allies to have maximum impact. And when all else fails — and the rights of business and workers have been trampled — we’ll seek redress in the courts.
Our leaders in Washington should be working to strengthen the economy and serve voters, not do the political bidding of big labor.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.