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Lawmakers Disagree on Union Rights

Lawmakers Disagree on Union Rights

Congressional lawmakers are considering competing bills with different views on union rights for workers.

At a U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Nov. 30, Republicans favored the National Right to Work Act, which would prevent labor unions from requiring workers to pay union dues if they don't want to belong to the union.

Democrats supported the Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) Act, which would nullify laws in 28 states that say workers can't be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of the job. The PRO Act also would replace secret - ballot union elections with card - check elections and prohibit captive - audience meetings by employers to discuss union activity. Both bills have been introduced but have not passed the House or Senate.

Republican Praise Right to Work Laws

The term "right to work" means permitting workers to not pay union dues, even when they're part of a unionized workplace and covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

Corporations, especially in the manufacturing industry, often seek out states with "right to work" laws when they're deciding where to move or expand, according to Mark Mix, president of the Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, Va.

A nationwide right to work law "is critical for creating jobs and ending forced, automatic unionization for the American people," said Rep. Joe Wilson, R - S.C.

Right to work states "have increased manufacturing employment, productivity, and personal income," Wilson said.

"These [state] laws provide workers the freedom to choose how to spend their hard - earned paycheck," said Rep. Rick Allen, R - Ga.

"We shouldn't be imposing forced unionism on anyone here," Mix said. "The idea of compulsion is wrong." Some workers object to joining a union because they disagree with the political or ideological direction the union is taking, he noted.

Democrats Favor Stronger Unions

Unionization can mean higher pay and better benefits for workers and their families, according to Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D - Calif.

"Union victories are not just limited to unionized workplaces and frequently result in wage increases in nonunion workplaces, as well," he said. He cited recent announcements that Honda and Hyundai would adopt wage increases after the United Auto Workers union secured a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

The National Right to Work Act "would make it harder for workers to form unions, gut workers' collective bargaining power, and further the imbalance in favor of large corporations and capital versus the wages of day - to - day workers," he said.

The right to work bill is an attack on labor unions and would be bad for the country, said Jody Calemine, director of labor and employment policy at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank in New York City.

"A nonmember gets the same pay raises that a member gets, the same representation in a grievance proceeding that a member gets," he said. "It's only fair that even if you don't join a union, you pay your fair share of the cost of winning and enforcing these contracts from which you benefit."

Unions are the most effective private - sector solution for combating poverty and income inequality and ensuring access to health care and retirement security, he added.

Rep. Susan Wild, D - Pa., said unionized workers are more likely than nonunion workers to have paid leave, pensions, and employer - sponsored health insurance. "Strong unions are key to a strong economy where people can work hard and get ahead and support their families," she said.


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