Policy Watch: Trump and Congress diligently work to strip working people of hard-fought rights

It is becoming routine in the Trump administration to assign each week a policy theme. Last week was “infrastructure week,” which sounded promising but for the fact that the Trump administration had already proposed a budget that would slash infrastructure investment. This week is “workforce development” week. Again, in spite of the designation, workforce development does not fare well under the Trump budget proposal, which included significant cuts to job training grant programs. More troubling than the gimmicky, hollow marketing the administration routinely employs to mask these budget maneuvers is the true tradition of the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress: diligently working each week to strip working people of hard-fought rights. This week, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans focused their efforts on taking away workers’ right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Union busters get a break

On Monday, the Trump Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will rescind the “persuader rule.” When workers seek to form a union, some employers choose to hire union-avoidance consultants—known as “persuaders”—who craft and deliver anti-union messages and campaign materials in the workplace. They may directly talk with workers or indirectly influence workers by scripting speeches or developing talking points for managers or supervisors. Just like political campaign disclosure laws, the persuader rule would have helped ensure that workers knew the source of the anti-union views, materials, and messages that they receive during a union organizing campaign. Workers often do not know that their employer has hired a consultant to defeat a union organizing campaign. The persuader rule simply required that employers and the consultants they hire file reports for all persuader activities, to help ensure that workers are given information about the source of campaign material. Scrapping the rule gives union-busting firms a break and robs workers of the ability to make an informed choice in a union election.

House considers trio of anti-union bills

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health, Labor, Employment, and Pensions held a hearing on three anti-worker bills: the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 2776), the Employee Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 2775), and the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723). These deceptively named bills make it nearly impossible for workers to exercise their right to join together to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (WDFA) mandates unnecessary delay in the union election process, requiring a 35-day waiting period between the filing of an election petition and an election. The legislation also enables employers to gerrymander a bargaining unit (a group of workers that join together in a union). Under the WDFA, employers could pack the voting rolls with workers who do not share the organizing workers’ interests, making it very difficult for workers to win a union. At the same time, the bill would make it harder for workers to grow their union by adding members to an existing bargaining unit. This double standard reveals the true goal of the legislation—to ensure that all workers are left on our own to negotiate with our employers.

The Employee Privacy Protection Act (EPPA) restricts the voter information unions receive during an organizing campaign. Under current law, a union has the right to a list of voter names, job classifications, work locations, shifts, and contact information within two days after a bargaining unit is determined. The EPPA would require that the voter list information be provided to the union “not earlier than 7 days” after a final determination of the bargaining unit. However, the bill does not provide a maximum waiting time. So, the union could receive the information the day before the election. Further, the EPPA restricts the contact information unions receive. The bill forces a worker to select, in writing, one form of contact information (telephone, email, or mailing address) to provide to the union. If a worker wanted to provide multiple contacts, this bill would prohibit that.

The Employee Rights Act is the most far reaching of the three measures considered by the committee. This legislation would make it nearly impossible for workers to form a union. The bill prohibits voluntary employer recognition of a union. Under existing law, an employer is free to recognize a union and bargain with its workforce when workers show majority support for the union. The legislation also requires that a union win the support of the majority of all workers eligible to vote in the union election—not just those workers who vote. Imagine if congressional elections worked that way. None of the members who sponsored this legislation would have been elected.

The House Education and Workforce Committee may continue to advance these bills in the coming weeks. The Perkins Project Policy Watch will continue to track the Trump administration and Congress and provide information on how their actions impact our nation’s workers.