On May 3, House Education & the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations heard from witnesses calling for federal labor law reform to prohibit controversial union security agreements. “Compulsory unionism blots the American tradition of liberty by stripping working Americans of their right to join or not join or financially support a union,” testified Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Goodlatte and Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) introduced the National Right-to-Work Act to combat compulsory unionism. NRTWA currently has 23 co-sponsors in the Senate and 134 in the House.
The NRTWA, or the Coverdell-Goodlatte Act, would amend the Nat’l Labor Relations Act and the Ry. Labor Act which allow unions and employers to agree on collective bargaining agreement clauses that require employees to join the union and pay full dues, or to pay fees that cover the union’s cost of representing all the unit members, with the money deducted from employees’ paychecks.
Currently, 21 states currently have right-to-work laws. They are Ala., Ariz., Ark., Fla., Ga., Id., Iowa, Kan., La., Miss., Neb., Nev., N.C., N.D., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Tex., Utah, Vir., Wyo.
Subcommittee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who has refused to endorse the NRTWA, held the hearing and said it was “a continuation of our commitment to review existing federal labor policies as we begin the 21st century.”
Goodlatte quoted the founder of the AFL, Samuel Gompers: “workers in America adhere to voluntary institutions in preference to compulsory systems which are not only impractical, but a menace to their welfare and their liberty.” Current federal labor law allows union officials to “rob individual employees of fundamental freedoms” and exerts “a damaging and corrupting influence on workplaces, the economy, and other aspects of everyday American life,” said Goodlatte, adding that “individual employees who decide to stand up for their beliefs frequently find themselves the targets of orchestrated campaigns of harassment, intimidation, and physical violence.”
Goodlatte reminded the Subcommittee that the NRTWA would not prevent anyone from voluntarily joining a union and exercising the right to organize, bargain collectively, and even strike, “[b]ut [it] leaves the choice of whether to join or organize to the individual — where it belongs. This in fact strengthens labor unions by ensuring that they are comprised of individuals who are united in their goals, rather than those who are simply forced into membership.”
Others testifying on behalf of employee freedom of choice were Col. Stat Rep. Mark Paschall (R) and Nat’l Right to Work Committee president Reed Larson. Larson said NLRA “contains some of the most deliberately misleading language human beings could devise.” He cited NLRA § 7, which provides that employees have the right to refrain from engaging in union activity “except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring union membership as a condition of employment.” [BNA 5/4/00]