Why Congress Should Follow Tennessee’s Lead on Labor Reform

Why Congress Should Follow Tennessee’s Lead on Labor Reform
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on March 22, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)
F. Vincent Vernuccio
This month, Tennessee legislators are finalizing a first-in-the-nation bill that guarantees workers a secret ballot in unionization elections.

The bill, which applies to workplaces that receive economic incentives from the state, means that employees will get to decide in private whether they want union representation. And their decision won’t be used against them in the workplace.

It’s a bold step toward curbing worker intimidation.

Absent a secret-ballot election, employees can face a very different situation. Labor unions prefer an organizing approach known as card check. This petition process sets union organizers out to collect the requisite number of signatures needed to unionize the workplace.

In their pursuit of signatures, union organizers can be deceptive and relentless. They may call workers’ personal cell phones, pressure them in front of their coworkers, and even show up at workers’ homes while they’re spending time with family.

Firsthand accounts paint a scary picture. One employee being urged to sign the card was told she risked the union coming to “get her children” and “slash her car tires.”

That’s hardly the informed decision-making process that workers deserve.

Tennessee’s bill will shield some workers from coercive union tactics. Beyond the Volunteer State, however, workers everywhere deserve those same safeguards.

And now, federal legislation aims to give them a similar guarantee. The Employee Rights Actintroduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), envisions secret-ballot elections becoming the norm for almost all private-sector employees, in all states.

It also secures workers’ privacy, giving them a choice about what information is shared with a union. For example, instead of workers having all their personal information—their cell phone number, their home address, and personal email—handed over to the union, workers can select a single piece of information to share.

The legislation also modernizes outdated labor laws. With more than one-third of Americans now identifying as independent workers, this reform is sorely needed.

The Employee Rights Act protects entrepreneurs by standardizing the federal definition of independent workers. This safeguards workers from being treated as employees for the purpose of unionization.

Some policymakers, in an effort to make unionization easier, have tried to redefine what it means to be an independent worker. From California to the Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board and even in other failed bills in Congress, poorly conceived policy has threatened independent workers’ and small business owners’ rights—and their livelihoods. California’s Assembly Bill 5, for example, was such a fiasco for independent contractors that even the bill sponsor, who has since joined a union’s payroll, admitted it went too far.

Other policies have tried to make small business owners “joint employers” with distant corporations, turning these owners into corporate managers and jeopardizing their livelihood. The Employee Rights Act would protect franchisees and small business owners, ensuring that a job creator can work directly with his or her own employees.

Today’s 21st-century workers expect to choose for themselves how they work—and for whom. They expect to decide independently whether a labor union represents them and to have that decision respected.

By following Tennessee’s lead, Congress can now offer these workers election rights, personal privacy protections, and policy as modern as they are.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
F. Vincent Vernuccio is president of the Institute for the American Worker and senior labor policy adviser for Workers for Opportunity.
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