WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 9, 2014 -
Today the committee will consider H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act and H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. Together these proposals provide an appropriate congressional response to the National Labor Relations Board’s proposed ambush election rule.
I had hoped today’s meeting would not be necessary. Over the last several weeks this committee has tried to engage in a good faith effort to address concerns about the board’s proposed ambush election rule, specifically the rule’s effect on the rights of workers and job creators.
Under the board’s proposal, the right of employers to communicate with their employees will be severely restricted. Congress decided long ago it was in workers’ best interest to hear the views of both unions and employers during an organizing campaign, yet the board’s proposal takes a fundamentally different approach. An election could be held in as few as 10 days, providing employers little time to respond to a host of complicated legal questions and practically no time to speak to their employees. As a result, employers will be silenced and debate will be stifled.
We heard a great deal during a recent oversight hearing about the influence outside voices can have on union elections. Our Democratic colleagues showed us a number of headlines from Tennessee. Here is one headline they didn’t discuss: “VW labor leader links SUV with works council.” Citing Volkswagen’s German labor chief, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that a “works council labor board at the Chattanooga factory is important if the plant wants to produce other VW vehicles.” Reuters reports the same union boss has “threatened” to block additional investments in the southern United States if “workers there are not unionized.”
Are these comments an attempt by a union leader to “ambush” workers? Well, that’s not for us to decide today. But these comments illustrate that the debate over unionization is often spirited if not divisive. A vigorous debate can often get messy, but it still provides workers an opportunity to gather all the facts and make a fully-informed decision before casting their ballots.
That is why workers will be most harmed by the board’s proposed rule. Deciding whether to join a union is not a simple decision. The outcome of an election can affect workers’ future wages, health care, retirement benefits, work hours, and other employment conditions. Voters in federal elections have months to hear from all the candidates before deciding who will represent them in Washington. Don’t American workers deserve more than 10 days to decide whether they want a union negotiating over matters critical to their families’ well being?
Several weeks ago Representative Roe and I met with Chairman Pearce to raise these concerns and seek answers to some straightforward questions. For example, did the board consider soliciting public input before releasing its proposed rule?
Does the board seek to diminish employers’ due process rights by ignoring legal concerns that are not identified during an arbitrary seven-day window?
Is the board worried that providing personal information to union organizers will jeopardize the privacy of employees and their families?
And does the board honestly believe 10 days is enough time for workers to gather the facts, speak with friends, coworkers, and loved ones, and make an informed decision?
Unfortunately, Chairman Pearce failed to provide adequate responses to these and other important questions. We also asked the board to provide the public 30 additional days to comment on the proposed rule, yet even this reasonable, routine request was rejected.
We are left with only one conclusion: The board is utterly determined to jam through the regulatory process a flawed scheme that will stifle employer free speech and cripple worker free choice. Congress cannot sit idly by and let that happen. As lawmakers and the people’s elected representatives, we have a responsibility to act.
The Employee Privacy Protection Act and the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act provide a responsible, commonsense response to the board’s radical ambush election rule. The legislation codifies, and in some ways strengthens, labor policies enjoyed for decades by workers, employers, and unions. The proposals will help ensure employers can continue to participate in a fair election process and workers have the time necessary to make an informed decision, as well as empower workers to protect their personal privacy. I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.
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