Senate Power Grab Could Doom Right to Work

‘Extended Debate’ Tool Indispensable For Compulsory-Unionism Foes

Rather than allow pro-Right to Work senators to debate Big Labor power grabs as public opposition mobilizes, potential Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declares he is ready to muzzle the opposition by rewriting Senate rules.
(Credit: Cheriss May/Bloomberg News Service)

Today, thanks to the grassroots activism of millions of freedom-loving Americans, there are Right to Work laws on the books protecting the personal freedom of employees in 27 out of the 50 states.

Under state Right to Work statutes and constitutional provisions, roughly half of America’s front-line private-sector employees in 2020 cannot legally be forced to join or bankroll a union as a job condition.

But were it not for the availability of the “extended debate” weapon in the U.S. Senate over the past 60 years, every single private-sector production employee in America today would probably be subject to the provisions in federal law that authorize termination for refusal to join or bankroll a union.

Time and Again, Committee’s Ability to Keep Debates Going Made the Difference

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix explained:

“Because of the enormous clout of the forced-dues-fueled union political machine, there have been many times since the founding of the Committee in 1955 when Big Labor controlled majorities in both chambers of Congress and had an ideological ally in the White House.

“In 1965 and 1966, for example, union lobbyists seemed to have the skids greased for adoption of legislation repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

“Repeal would have gutted every single Right to Work law in the U.S.

“In 1993 and 1994, pundits were saying enactment of union bosses’ Pushbutton Strike Bill was inevitable. It would have made winning strikes to secure forced-dues privileges as easy as pushing a button for Big Labor.

“And as recently as 2009, to mention just one more example, union lobbyists had lined up congressional majorities and then-President Barack Obama behind the ‘Card-Check’ Forced-Unionism Bill.

“This scheme would have helped union bosses corral millions of additional workers and small businesses under union monopoly bargaining.

“Of course, 14(b) repeal and all the subsequent union-boss forced-unionism schemes were very unpopular with the public.

“But that fact alone would not have prevented these measures from passing.

“It was the ability of Right to Work supporters, under Senate rules, to keep an extended debate going with the help of only a minority of senators — specifically, 41 out of 100, since the mid-1970’s —  that made the difference, time and again. 

“Extended debates, otherwise known as filibusters, enable Right to Work advocates and other grassroots citizen groups to block special-interest legislation until an alerted public can defeat it directly.”

‘Top Union Bosses Have Long Wanted to Bar Extended Senate Debates’ 

“That’s why,” Mr. Mix continued “top union bosses have long wanted to bar extended Senate debates.

“As David Shor, then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 battleground state elections analyst and a top Democrat Party strategist, recently acknowledged in a New York magazine interview, ‘repealing right-to-work laws . . . is unpopular.’

“To ram through Congress legislation eviscerating state Right to Work laws, and other forced-unionism schemes, union lobbyists need to be able to get their bills voted on in the Senate before Right to Work supporters can inundate lawmakers’ offices with emails, texts, mail, and phone calls.

“Moreover, under a precedent established by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.], union-boss puppet politicians can change the Senate rules to snuff extended debates against controversial legislation with the support of a bare majority of senators. 

“On paper, Rule XXII, which has been adopted by the Senate in every Congress since it was first approved in 1917, still requires a two-thirds majority vote to end debate on a proposal to change the chamber’s procedures so that the proposal itself can be voted on.”

Big Labor New York Senator:  ‘We Will Do What It Takes to Get This Done’

Since the mid-1960’s, when then-Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) successfully led an extended debate to protect states’ freedom to prohibit forced union dues, this tool has been indispensable for Right to Work allies.
(Credit: Keith Temple/New Orleans Times-Picayne)

“But in 2013,” Mr. Mix explained “a 52-48 majority led by Reid simply declared that for the rest of the Congress the Senate would ignore the Rule XXII provision enabling a minority of senators to delay confirmation of presidential nominations by conducting an extended debate.

“Under this precedent, a bare majority of senators in the 2021-22 Congress may well vote to ignore completely Rule XXII’s authorization for extended debates, with regard to legislation as well as judicial appointments.”

High-ranking union officials are already publicly laying down the law that, if Joe Biden becomes the next President and Big Labor-allied politicians are holding the reins of both chambers of Congress in 2021, they will expect their agenda to be enacted, regardless of how unpopular it is.

Topping this agenda is the cynically mislabeled “Protecting the Right to Organize” Act, or PRO Act (H.R.2474). This smorgasbord of special privileges for union bosses has already been rubber-stamped by the House this year.

Its single most egregious provision would make private-sector forced union fees as a job condition permissible in all 50 states.

If schemes like the PRO Act are blocked by extended debates next year, warns AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs Bill Samuel, “then we would certainly be willing to take a look at changing the rules.”

And union-label Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is expected to become majority leader next year if Big Labor Democrats take over the chamber this fall, is leaving “the door open to nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster,” according to a late August report in The Hill. 

“We will do what it takes to get [the forced-unionism agenda] done,” declared Mr. Schumer to reporter Jordain Carney.

Right to Work Survey Program ‘Now More Important Than Ever Before’

The strong possibility that Big Labor’s forced-unionism legislation could quickly be enacted with the support of just 50 or 51 senators in 2021 means the National Right to Work Committee’s candidate survey program is “now more important than ever before,” said Mr. Mix.

He explained; “Right now, Survey 2020 is informing millions of concerned Americans about which federal candidates are publicly supporting Right to Work, and which ones aren’t.

“Candidates who refuse to oppose special privileges for union bosses must be held accountable. 

“I am cautiously optimistic that, thanks to Survey 2020’s effectiveness, the Committee will even in a worst-case scenario be able to thwart schemes like the PRO Act in 2021, with 51 Senate votes if necessary.”