The Heritage Foundation

Issue Bulletin #16

July 20, 1977

July 20, 1977 | Issue Bulletin on

DOMESTIC ISSUES: LABOR Reform

(Archived document, may contain errors)

16

July 20, 1977

LABOR REFORM

This Bulletin looks at the proposed changes in the National Labor Relations Act advocated by the Labor Reform Act of 1977 (H.R. 8410; S. 1883) and Employee Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 8289, 8310; S. 1855).

StATUs 6F LABog Rum AcT (H.R. 8410; S. 1883)

On July 19, 1977, Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ) and Repre- pentative'Frank Thompson (D-NJ)'introduced-H.R. 8410 and S. 1883 which replaces the previous Labor Reform Act of 1977, H.R. 77 introduced by Representative Thompson. These successor bills will be referred to the Subcommittee on Labor Management Relations of the House Education and Labor Committee chaired by Thompson and the Senate Human Resources Committee chaired by Williams.

Pgoylsms oF THE BiLL.N.R. 8410i S. 1883) A. Would impose strict deadlines of from 15 to 75 days for the staqing of elections among workers on whether they wish to join a union.

B. Employers who have been cited for unfair labor practices such as discriminating against workers engaged in union activity,

NOTE: Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily re- flecting the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress. would have to pay double damages. Furthermore, these busi- nesses would be declared ineligible for federal contracts for three years. Business believes that cooperative action on specific problems, rather than punitive measures is a better approach.

C. Where a party is found "guilty of refusing to bargain in good faith" for a first collective bargaining contract, the Board may award damages to the employees based upon an objec- tive statistical measure of wage gains under collective bar- gaining agreements. Labor sees this as a major weapon against employers, but business is concerned about giving this federal agency power to impose specific contract terms on employers.

D. Whenever employers make campaign speeches or other communi- cations to employees on plant premises or during working time, the union would be given an equivalent time and place to address the workprs also. The unions believe this is fair and equal and helpful for good communications. Management feels that this is an abridgment of their rightful duties of communications with their employees by an outside organization not responsible to either the stockholders or the customers.

E. Expands the National Labor Relations Board from five to seven members with seven-year terms. It allows a quorum of two Board members to summarily affirm an-Administrative Law Judge's unfair labor practice decision within 30 days after the Admini- strative Law Judge's decision upon the motion of the prevailing party. Labor feels that this would streamline its appeals pro- cedures and speed up case handling. Management feels that this procedure would ramrod labor's appeals by a select group without adequate discussion and consideration of the full board of seven.

STATus oF EmpLoYEE BiLL oF RiGHTs (H.R. 8289, 8310; S. 1355)

On July 14, 1977, Representative John Ashbrook (R-Ohio) and Representative John Erlenborn (R-Ill) introduced the Employee Bill of Rights Act of 1977 (H.R. 8289, 8310). It was referred to the Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Com- mittee on Education and Labor on which both Congressmen sit, with Ashbrook as ranking minority member. On the Senate side, on July 14, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senator John Tower (R-Texas) introduced S. 1855, the Employee Bill of Rights Act of 1977. It has been referred to the Human Resources Committee. PROVISIONS OF THE BiLL (H.R. 8289, 8310j S. 1855) A. would provide for secret ballot elections and require that these elections be held prior to stipulated bar- gaining sessions;

B. would protect workers from union fines that are fre- quently levied as punishment for exceeding work quotas or exercising freedom of speech;

C. would make it unlawful for a union to call or continue a strike if the workers vote against it in a secret ballot referendum;

D. would guarantee the right for all parties to be heard dur- ing organizing campaigns and electioneering, only with the provision that such efforts would not include force, threat of reprisal, or promise of benefit;

B. when disputing parties have agreed to arbitration, then this must be the exclusive provision for the resolution of disputes, provided that the arbitration decisions are consistent with other rights under the National Labor Relations Act;

F. would prohibit the check-off system to solicit contribu- tions to union political funds; this still allows unions and management to raise contributions under existing cam- paign contribution laws but would relieve management from the administrative burden of collecting union funds;

G. would protect workers who object to joining or financially supporting labor organizations on the basis of religious convictions; traditionally, these have been members of the Christian Reformed, Adventist, Amish,"and Mennonite faiths. under this provision, workers would be able to choose to pay sums comparable to union dues to a non-religious chari- table fund.

ANALYsis

On July 19, 1977, President Carter announced that he was propos- ing a labor reform package that would make union organizing easier. This proposal was jointly introduced by Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ) and Representative Frank Thompson (D-NJ):.and is the previously discussed H.R. 8410/S....-1883.- Many observers feel that H.R. 77 was in doubt of passage be- cause of two controversial aspects. One of its provisions would require that a union be recognized as bargaining agent if 55 percent of the workers signed authorization cards. Business felt that this would increase intimidation by union officials on workers and that peer pressure would force workers to sign these cards, even if they did not want a union. This "55 percent" provision is not in President Carter's package, so the secret-ballot election is still intact.

The other controversial provision was the awarding of triple damages to workers found to have been discriminated against for union activity. Under the Carter package, this has been reduced to double damages.

The Ashbrook/Erlenborn - Hatch/Tower Employee Bill of Rights Act is designed to be an alternative to the Carter-Williams-Thompson proposal. Whereas the Carter bill strengthens authority in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board and to a lesser ex- tent the union, the Ashbrook/Erlenborn - Hatch/Tower bill gives employees protection by recognizing the employee's right to se- cret ballot elections for union representation; his right not to have mandatory union contributions used for political pur- poses; and his right to withold support from a union if his religious belief prohibits such support. At this time, when only 21.5 percent of the labor force'in the United States are union members, the Carter program is looked upon as an effort to strengthen and encourage the growth of unions. On the other hand, the Ashbrook/Erlenborn - Hatch/Tower bill focuses on protecting the rights of individual workers rather than the union.

By David A. Williams Policy Analyst

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