The Corner

Economy & Business

Workers the White House Ignores

How well do unions represent their members? Incredibly well, according to the Obama administration. At a “Summit on Worker Voice” it’s hosting on Wednesday, many speakers will argue unions benefit workers and need more power. The Heritage Foundation is also hosting a workers’ summit tomorrow morning. Speakers there will present a side of the story unions (and the White House) like to ignore.

Workers typically unionize when their employer mistreats them. As the saying goes, “management gets the union it deserves.” But what can workers do when their union mistreats them? Far too many union executives have proven uninterested in representing their members well.

Unions typically promise higher wages during organizing drives. They often cannot deliver. Studies find average wages do not rise at most unionized companies. But those unions still force workers to pay their dues or get fired. Many workers who try to remove their new union then face harassment.

This happened to Karen Cox, a lift-truck operator from Rock Falls, Ill. Unions organized her workplace without a secret-ballot election. So she organized her co-workers to ask the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a secret-ballot vote. As soon as she did this, her own union began pressuring and threatening her. Ultimately she collected enough signatures, but the Obama NLRB decided not to let them vote.

Karen will be speaking about her experience at Heritage on Tuesday. So will many other workers whose unions did not speak for them.

Unfortunately many in Congress pay little attention to these workers’ voices. The White House summit appears set to highlight the AFL-CIO endorsed WAGE Act. This legislation would sharply restrict secret ballots in union-organizing elections. That benefits union organizers at the expense of workers.

The solutions in the Employee Rights Act would be far more effective at empowering workers. The legislation would return decision-making power from union executives to rank-and-file employees. It would guarantee secret ballots in union-organizing campaigns, require unions to periodically stand for reelection, and ensure workers the right to vote before unions call a strike. It would also make it illegal for unions to threaten members trying to leave.

Unions do not always represent their members well. Ignoring that fact hurts workers.


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