WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 3, 2015 – The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing entitled, “Compulsory Unionization through Grievance Fees: The NLRB’s Assault on Right to Work.” During the hearing, members discussed how an effort by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could weaken state right-to-work laws and diminish employee freedom.
“In recent years, the president’s appointees at the NLRB have undermined employee free choice through an ambush election scheme, stifled employee freedom through micro-unions, and restricted employee access to secret ballot union elections,” Chairman Kline said. “Now the board is setting its sights on the freedom and choice provided to employees under state right-to-work laws.”
In 1947, Congress amended the National Labor Relations Act to allow states to prohibit compulsory union membership. Known as “right to work,” this state-based policy ensures union membership cannot be a condition of employment and employees cannot be required to pay union dues and fees. In April, the NLRB invited public comment on whether the board should reverse decades of precedent and adopt a new rule permitting unions to collect fees from nonmembers for grievance processing, undermining employee protections provided under state right-to-work laws.”
“Every worker has a fundamental right to decide whether or not to join a union,” Chairman Kline continued. “Those who decide not to join a union shouldn’t be punished for that decision, especially when the punishment denies a worker the chance to provide for his or her family. That is why it is deeply troubling the Obama labor board is trying to undermine a policy embraced by workers and state leaders across the country.”
Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), who leads one of 25 states with right-to-work laws, touted the economic benefits Nebraska enjoys as a right-to-work state. “Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.5 percent,” he explained. “We know our right-to-work status contributes to that because it sends the right message to employers and employees.”
However, as Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, explained, “the NLRB’s new ‘fee-for-grievance’ scheme would give union officials a way to extract ‘fees’ from nonunion workers – fees that could in fact be greater than regular dues – leaving the right-to-work law on the books, but severely emasculated … Right to Work is fundamentally an issue of individual freedom. The NLRB’s plan to undercut right-to-work laws is an outrage to working men and women all across this country.”
Echoing Mix’s concerns, Gov. Ricketts said, “This is about the people I represent, who respect the right to organize and respect the right to decline … This proposal is a solution in search of a problem and would hurt individual rights, employers, and continued economic growth.”
Walter Hewitt, an employee of United Way of Southeast Connecticut, recounted the adverse conditions he faced as a worker in a forced unionization state. Hewitt affirmed the “NLRB should not be allowed to undermine employee free choice by allowing unions to squeeze money out of employees under the guise of ‘fees for grievance representation,’ where employees are forced to accept such representation whether they agree or not.”
“If we adopted Big Labor’s logic,” Chairman Kline concluded, “workers would be stuck between a rock and a hard place; they would either have to pay the union fee or forfeit any opportunity to resolve grievances with their employers. That is not what Congress intended nearly 70 years ago and it is not what Congress intends today.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.