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House GOP pushes labor reform

By Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has scheduled a Wednesday hearing on three Republican bills that would represent some of the most far-reaching changes to federal labor law in decades. The legislation would mainly change the rules for workplace organizing elections, setting higher bars for unions to win.

Republican members of the committee argue the bills would balance the elections by ensuring that unions prevail only when they have definite majority support from workers. Democrats counter that the bills are intended to do little more than hobble unions' chances of winning.

"These hearings are part of the committee's ongoing efforts to empower America's workers to succeed in the workforce. We're going to discuss ways to restore the rights of workers after years of the Obama administration's Big Labor agenda," said committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

The most expansive reform would be the Employee Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. The bill would require all workplace organizing elections to be conducted by secret ballot, force unions to hold recertification votes if there's been more than 50 percent turnover since the last election, and require unions to get written permission from workers to use dues for purposes other than collective bargaining, among other changes. The legislation has 27 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

"This legislation will ensure individuals' rights are upheld when considering whether or not they wish to join a union," Roe said Friday. "The Employee Rights Act isn't pro- or anti-union, it's a common-sense measure to ensure a transparent and fair workplace. I am proud to introduce this instrumental piece of legislation that will protect and promote the rights of America's workers."

The committee also will highlight the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. The legislation would set the time period from when a workplace election is authorized by the government to when it is held to no less than 35 days. That would reverse a recent rulemaking by the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, that shortened the period to at little as 10 days. The board's move was applauded by unions, who argued it would prevent union-busting campaigns by management. Businesses dubbed it the "ambush election" rule, arguing it was designed to quickly railroad workers to joining a union. The legislation has six co-sponsors.

The hearing also will highlight the Employee Privacy Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., which would prohibit employers from giving away most employee contact information without the worker's consent. Under current federal law, employers are obliged to turn over all worker contact information to unions, regardless of whether the workers consent to it. The legislation has seven co-sponsors.

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