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What is Next for the NLRA: Reforming to Meet the Needs of 21st Century Workers

Recorded on June 16, 2008

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

Less than one in thirteen private sector workers belong to a labor union, and both businesses and unions believe that the National Labor Relations Act is no longer relevant to today's workers.  Businesses argue that the NLRA's adversarial labor-management framework does not fit into modern workplaces, while labor organizations contend employer intimidation prevents workers from unionizing and that no one speaks for most workers today.  Congress has debated many proposals to bring the NLRA into the 21st Century.

Most of this debate has focused on proposals like the Employee Free Choice Act that change the methods by which workers choose to join or not join a union.  Congress has largely ignored reforming how employers and employees relate in the workplace.  Many workers want a greater voice on the job but do not want to join a labor union.  Currently they face an all-or-nothing choice.  Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA prohibits employee participation in workplace decisions except through traditional labor unions.  This was intended to prevent employers from using "company unions" to undermine organizing drives.  Today this ban prevents nonunion companies from innovating in employee relations and from giving their workers an effective voice in the workplace.

Professor Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University will present his research on how relaxing the 8(a)(2) prohibition could increase workers' voice and choice in the workplace without undermining the goals of the labor movement.  Former Republican and Democratic NLRB Members Robert Brame and Sarah Fox will discuss the advantages and shortcomings of this proposal.