Kline Statement: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3094, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act
As prepared for delivery.
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 12, 2011
Good morning, and welcome to the committee’s legislative hearing on H.R. 3094, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. I would like to thank our witnesses for joining us.
We are here today for one simple reason: the National Labor Relations Board is wreaking havoc on the nation’s workforce and it must be stopped. In recent months, the NLRB has taken a number of steps that move federal labor policy in a radically new direction.
Under the board’s ambush elections proposal, employers will have just seven days to find legal representation and prepare the case they must present before an NLRB election officer. If they fail to raise an issue before the start of a pre-election hearing, with few exceptions employers lose the ability to address the concern during the hearing process.
Workers will also be harmed by this troubling change in policy. The board’s proposal would leave employees with as little as 10 days to consider all the consequences of joining a union before casting a ballot. Additionally, the board’s plan would delay answers to questions often critical to an employee’s decision and undermine employer access to a fair hearing. When coupled with its Specialty Healthcare decision, which enables union leaders to manipulate the workplace for their own gain, it becomes clear the board is promoting unionization by stifling employers’ free speech and crippling workers’ free choice.
I am open to ideas that will modernize the election process, but those efforts should never undermine the fundamental rights of employees and employers. Expansive changes to workforce policy should be vetted by the people’s elected representatives – first by this committee, and then by the full Congress. Hundreds of millions of workers and employers will be forced to live with the consequences of these dramatic changes and they deserve a Congressional response.
The legislation before us today will require the NLRB to change course and reaffirm key protections workers and employers have received for decades. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act provides employers at least 14 days to prepare for the election hearing, thereby ensuring access to a full and fair hearing. This provision removes an arbitrary deadline and restores board discretion over the election process. By affording workers at least 35 days to hear both sides of the debate before casting their ballot, the legislation guarantees their ability to make an informed decision.
In addition to these workforce protections, H.R. 3094 also reinstates the traditional standard for determining which employees will participate in union representation and an individual’s ability to request board review before the election takes place. Finally, the bill safeguards privacy by empowering workers to determine the personal information provided to the union.
As we saw with the release of the latest employment data last week, our nation is still struggling to create the jobs we so desperately need. The American people have asked Congress to do everything possible to encourage economic growth and investment. While some may insist this can only come through more temporary stimulus spending and permanent tax increases, my Republican colleagues and I know the one thing business owners and entrepreneurs need right now is certainty.
The policies advanced by the NLRB are dramatically increasing the pressure and uncertainty facing business owners, making it more difficult to create jobs and plan for the future. One employer in particular has voiced his concerns about the board’s actions and the implications it bears on the economy.
Michael Whalen is the founder of Heart of America Group, a business that operates hotels and restaurants throughout the Midwest and employs 3,000 workers. In the days following the release of the board’s ambush election proposal, he wrote, “The impact of this decision is clear: American businesses will have yet another reason to invest elsewhere rather than in creating new jobs here at home.”
Rather than doubling-down on the failed policies of the past, we have a responsibility to remove the regulatory hurdles facing employers. Congress can either support an activist agenda or listen to the voices of employers like Michael Whalen, who strive every day to grow their businesses and create new opportunities for America’s workers.
I look forward to hearing the views of our excellent panel of witnesses, and will now yield to the Senior Democratic Member of the committee, Mr. Miller, for his opening remarks.
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