Labor Day is no reason to celebrate union bosses’ war on workers’ rights

Labor Day should be about celebrating the hard work and determination of America’s workers. Every year, however, Big Labor and its allies in Congress and in statehouses across the country manipulate the holiday to portray as “pro-worker” their schemes that really empower union bosses at the expense of rank-and-file workers.

The truth is, central to Big Labor’s political agenda are more powers for union officials to wield against workers who won’t voluntarily affiliate with a union. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the actions of President Joe Biden’s administration.

Self-styled “union guy” Joe Biden regularly touts his support for union bosses’ top legislative priority, the PRO-Act — whose signature provision is the repeal of all 27 state Right to Work laws. That would force millions more workers across the country to subsidize the agendas of union bosses or else be fired.

Among the PRO-Act’s other provisions is an imposition of the controversial “card check” method of imposing union power. Instead of letting workers have the final say on whether a union should be in their workplace by casting ballots in secret, the PRO-Act would let union officials bypass NLRB elections by submitting “union cards” collected by union organizers using pressure or intimidation tactics that would be prohibited in a secret-ballot election.

Rideshare Uber and Lyft drivers rally in support of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, in Los Angeles.
Rideshare Uber and Lyft drivers rally in support of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, in Los Angeles.
Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

Union officials know that whether a worker will sign a card in the presence of one or more union organizers has little to do with how they’d vote in private. Even the AFL-CIO’s “Guidebook for Union Organizers” admitted that often workers sign cards simply to “get the union off my back” and avoid additional harassment. During “card check” drives, workers have even reported union organizers resorting to bribes, threats and lies to get the cards signed so unionization can be imposed on the entire workplace.

The PRO-Act also targets freelance workers and independent contractors, whose current status means they can’t be subjected to monopoly unionization under federal labor law. By redefining them as traditional employees, it would destroy the work flexibility that is a big draw for many who choose such work. That is a feature, not a bug, for organizers who would then be able to impose one-size-fits-all forced-dues union contracts on millions more Americans.

The bill’s union-boss-power grabs at the expense of individual workers’ rights don’t stop there. Union officials would also be entitled to demand workers’ personal contact information during a unionization drive (even over a worker’s objections), to block workers’ ability to hold decertification votes to remove unions that are opposed by a majority of workers and even to call in government bureaucrats to impose forced-dues union contracts through binding arbitration over the objections of both workers and employers.

The PRO-Act remains stalled in the Senate, but this hasn’t stopped Team Biden from moving to impose much of it by executive fiat. The former union lawyer who is now the powerful general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board is already pushing to implement multiple PRO-Act provisions, including “card check” by effectively making it illegal for employers to rebuff union organizers’ demands for recognition based solely on union cards.

Time and time again, union officials and their allies in the administration prioritize union-boss power even though it’s workers opposed to union affiliation whose rights are diminished. This vision is not pro-worker, and we certainly shouldn’t be celebrating it on Labor Day.

Samuel Gompers
Samuel Gompers is the founder of the American Federation of Labor (now the AFL-CIO).
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Union officials weren’t always such devotees of government-granted coercion. Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor (now the AFL-CIO), declared in a 1924 speech to union delegates, “I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty — the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.”

Gompers understood, as do the eight in 10 Americans who support Right to Work, that when union affiliation and financial support are voluntary, union officials must prove their worth to individual workers.

Meanwhile, when workers must pay up or else be fired, rank-and-file workers’ interests inevitably take a back seat to maintaining the political influence needed to perpetuate and expand the government-granted compulsion that keeps dues flowing.

So this Labor Day, don’t buy into the union propaganda that pro-union-boss is pro-worker. Support Right to Work and respect workers’ individual rights to decide whether or not they want to affiliate with a union.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

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