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Opinion: Congress assaults workers' rights again

By Mark Mix

Last week Detroit-area Congresswomen Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens helped Nancy Pelosi push Big Labor’s so-called “PRO Act” through the U.S. House, once again demonstrating that union officials and their allies in Congress will stop at nothing to force every worker they can under union control.

Most outrageously, this bill contains, as one of its flagship provisions, the elimination of every single state right-to-work law in America, including Michigan’s.

Currently, federal labor law authorizes union officials to force working Americans in the private sector to pay union dues or fees in order to get or keep a job. This power was given to union officials by Congress back in 1935, when it passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that framed federal labor law.

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Michigan (Rochester Hills)

The twin sources of Big Labor’s power, under both the NLRA and the Railway Labor Act (RLA), are monopoly bargaining (euphemistically called “exclusive representation”) and forced dues. Union officials have fought long and hard for the power to force every worker to submit to their monopoly representation. 

In essence, the federal government first forces union boss “representation” on workers, denying them the right to represent themselves in the workplace, and then compounds the injury by forcing them to pay union dues for that “representation,” or be fired. 

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan (Holly)

Since passage of Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, states have at least had the ability to “opt out” of the NLRA’s forced-dues provisions by passing state right-to-work laws, and Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in 2012.

The rampant corruption scandal still being uncovered at the United Auto Workers is just the most recent example of the importance of right-to-work laws, giving employees the freedom to stop providing dues money that the union’s leadership is just flat out stealing.

The PRO Act would remove even that basic safeguard of workers’ rights by amending the NLRA in order to neuter that provision, invalidating Michigan’s right-to-work law, as well as those of 26 other states.

The rampant corruption scandal still being uncovered at the United Auto Workers is just the most recent example of the importance of Right to Work laws, Mix writes.

Forced unionism is an assault on the American economy. It has a crippling effect on the nation’s competitiveness, preventing hardworking Americans from being as productive as possible and destroying businesses and the jobs they provide or sending them overseas.

The fact is that compulsory unionism exerts a corrupting and economically destructive influence on all aspects of American life. Right to work brings freedom to American workers, accountability to American unions and jobs to American cities. The PRO Act seeks to rob 27 states of the benefits that their right-to-work laws have produced and force millions of American workers (and their paychecks) back into the clutches of union bosses.

In addition to these unconscionable violations of worker freedom, this bill contains a laundry list of additional pro-Big Labor provisions, each designed to give more power to union bosses at the expense of employees and employers alike.

For brevity’s sake, I will omit many other policies included in this bill — such as card check, the perversion of the Joint Employer Standard, and decimating the gig economy by imposing California-style regulations on independent contractors — all of which would slant the field even further in Big Labor’s favor. Taken as a whole, this Big Labor wish list amounts to nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for American workers and our economy.

Instead of ripping away Michigan’s right-to-work law and further stacking the deck in favor of union bosses, Congress should instead be protecting the rights of all Americans from this sort of abuse. Michigan workers deserve better.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.