This will sort the public sector unions for you

In the US union busting laws are being promulgated as States seek to reign in out of controls state sector unions. One such law is the Employee Rights Act:

For the first time in decades, union power is under serious threat. Indiana is on the verge of becoming the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, liberating workers from being forced to join a union. New Hampshire may also adopt some form of right-to-work. Murmurs about a national right-to-work law are growing. Public sector unions continue to face efforts to curb their power and trim their lavish contracts.

And now there’s a shrewd new challenge to organized labor: the Employee Rights Act. It would take labor law in a new direction. Unlike right-to-work statutes, which help businesses escape unionization, the ERA would protect union workers from high-handedness and abuses of power by their union leaders.

The measure was formulated by Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist and longtime foe of excessive union power in labor relations and politics. It’s been passionately embraced by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and 20 other Republican senators. In the House, its chief sponsor is Tim Scott of South Carolina, a star of the freshman class of 87 Republicans.

Sounds promising, but what does it do?

What the ERA would do is entirely sensible. The most striking of its seven reforms would force unions to face a “recertification” election every three years, allowing workers to decide if they want to stick with their current union. Hatch says that “less than 10 percent” of union members today have ever voted on whether to have or keep a union. Another part of the measure would prevent union leaders from “intimidating or coercing employees from exercising their rights, including the right to decertify the union.”

That’s strong medicine. The rest of the ERA would guarantee secret ballot elections, give members the right to refuse to back their union’s political operations, require at least 40 days to hear both sides before voting to certify or decertify a union, require a secret ballot vote before a strike, and make it a crime for unions to use violence or threats to coerce members.

Notice the emphasis of all seven provisions. It’s on the individual rights of employees, not on economic concerns. Right-to-work laws let workers decline to join a union, but they are usually promoted as a tool for attracting business to a state and increasing jobs. By the way, 108 economists have endorsed the act.

Before the Nervous Nellie wets of National’s caucus have conniptions as to how this would be received, look at the polling on each of the seven provisions.

Berman hired the Opinion Re-search Corporation to survey union and nonunion households to gauge the ERA’s popularity. Only the secret ballot requirement drew less than 80 percent support. It was backed by 78 percent of both union and nonunion households.

Here’s the most surprising result: Eighty-four percent of nonunion and 83 percent of union households favor an election every three years to recertify or jettison the union. And 85 percent of nonunion and 88 percent of union households back the need for a majority of members to approve a strike.

That would sort out the Maritime Union for sure.


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  • Granny

    You’d almost think that they copied the New Zealand law, which both outlaws compulsory unionism, and requires secret ballots if unions want to initiate multi-employer agreements. It’s inertia that keeps NZ employees in public sector unions, not the law.

  • Bawaugh

    I watched the Maratime Union Strike Ballot on TV. How fair was that.

    Secret Ballot is the first priority, secondly ban unions from only employing their workers. I belive the Film Actors guild requires directors who employ a non union employee to pay them a fine. How fair is that.

    • Granny

      If Maritime Union members don’t agree with the strike “votes”, they can leave the union and carry on working.  They don’t, because they think it’s not in their (relatively) well paid interests to do so. 

      I agree that a general secret ballot requirement would be preferable, but it would be expensive to operate, and unlikely to deliver any different outcome.

      Only around 21% of the wage / salary workforce in NZ is in unions, most of them in the public sector, where inertia rules.     

  • Agent BallSack

    First the Republicans have to convince everyone that Bush was a Dem so they can get voted back in.

  • Ha ha ha !!!! Haven’t we already got the law in place? Back in the day I used to joke with fellow workers if they thought union membership was not worth the cost, it how would they feel if only union members got the conditions of work the union fought for? Stopped many an anti union argument.

    • Never stopped me…I always negotiated a better deal than the average one the union negotiated…but then I was worth more to the employer than union numpties who demanded 15min smokos and 5 minute handwashing time either side.

      • jay cee

        what job was that? i was the same as i didn’t like the union leader who represented us. my employer at the  time gave us who weren’t in the union exactly the same as those who were,cold comfort but i reckon inegotiated a better redundancy deal than the union members.

      • Anonymous

        Exactly! When I was a classroom teacher I resented the fact hat I could not negotiate my individual employment contract….

  • Blokeintakapuna

    Strewth – just listen to the bleating from the education sector unions about “changes” with Charter schooling nad National standards, or the stink the Student Unions try and make wiht voluntary v’s compulsory membership.

    If we can’t shoot them, or use electro-shock therapy on the unions, could we not export them to China or Afghanistan – along with all the ringleaders (and their political wing, the Labour Party)