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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

OPINION:

Democrats in Congress and their union funders seek to aid Big Labor by expanding their ranks. The most recent version of the Orwellian titled Protecting the Right to Organize Act, would destroy employees’ unfettered right to freedom of choice when unions come knocking. Chances for passage in this Congress are slim to none. Rightly, employees and the GOP aren’t buying what unions are selling. 

In April, over 3,000 employees at an Amazon distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, voted overwhelmingly (2-1) to reject unionizing their workplace. In 2014, among a smaller group of Amazon technicians in a Delaware facility, the vote was 3-1 against organizing. Despite the thorough spanking by Amazon employees, the Biden-dominated National Labor Relations Board has called for a revote. More on that outrage below.


Labor unions are stretching to tilt the playing field toward organizing because they face a public opinion crisis. According to the latest Gallup polling, although 68% of Americans “approve” of unions, only 28% have high confidence in them. Translation: A majority of people like the concept of labor unions but would never join one. Recent high-profile organizing predictably failed to get a “yes” vote for unionization from thousands of employees at Nissan, Volkswagen (twice), Boeing and Amazon

Conversely, the media was abuzz earlier this month when 27 employees voted “yes,” and 20 voted “no” at two Starbucks coffee shops in Buffalo, New York. You won’t hear much about the hard part that comes next. Starbucks already pays more and provides greater benefits than their competition. There is no legal requirement that they have to give more.

Why are unions experiencing such difficulty getting members? After all, the law for union organizing has basically remained the same for over 60 years. Maybe it’s because today’s employees are more informed and realize the promised benefits don’t outweigh the guaranteed baggage of membership.

The United Auto Workers is “Exhibit A” for why employees vote “no.” Two of the last four union presidents and 10 other UAW officials have been indicted for a variety of crimes that were mostly about self-enrichment with member dues. The union is now under a six-year-long federal monitorship that has historically been used to suppress mafia influence in labor unions. The executive director of the California branch of the SEIU was recently charged with “multiple counts of tax fraud, embezzlement, perjury and failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes.” Google “OLMS criminal enforcement” to find over one thousand criminal investigations of major labor union officials.

On that NLRB-ordered revote at Amazon, the government considered it necessary due to an “intimidation of employees.” The company had the U.S. Postal Service install a secure mailbox for workers to submit their secret ballots. The alleged illegality? The secured box was too close to the warehouse! Convenience to drop off a ballot was spun as a violation of the law. Wasn’t the expansion of mail-in voting endlessly praised in the 2020 federal elections?   

At the center of the crusade to pass the PRO Act, a coalition of left-wing groups recently announced the launch of a nationwide bus tour. Dubbed the “Pass the PRO Act Holiday Tour,” the road trip is designed to help build momentum for the legislation by visiting the home cities and states of lawmakers who have yet to pledge support. Predictable agitators on tour include Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the United Automobile Workers (there are still some available officials not in prison) and the always available contingent of the Democratic Socialists of America.  

But it should take more than a corny holiday rebranding to get the American people or the Senate on board.

If passed, the PRO Act would empower unions to bypass secret-ballot unionization elections, compel employers to share private home contact information of employees with unions, and negate the law in 27 states that provide employees with the right to work without having to join a union. The result will be more employees forced to pay for membership in a club they don’t want to join.

Instead, lawmakers should pursue an alternative buffet of policies that guarantees decision-making power lies with workers. Previously introduced federal legislation, properly called the Employee Rights Act (ERA), provides a good road map. Among other elements, it guarantees secret ballot elections, provides employee privacy protections and, most importantly, gives employees who are already in unions new fair procedures to reverse a unionization vote. For many union members, the initial decision to organize the workplace occurred years before they were born.

Current laws around union membership remind me of lyrics from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California”: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” True champions of worker rights in government should ensure employees with a case of buyer’s remorse can easily drop compelled union membership. Policies included in the ERA will get that done — no cheesy bus tour required.  

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


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