On Wednesday the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing to discuss three legislative proposals to amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). During the hearing – Examining Proposals to Strengthen the National Labor Relations Act – members of the subcommittee and panelists debated the merits of the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act, (pdf) Secret Ballot Protection Act, (pdf) and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. (pdf)
The RAISE Act would amend the NLRA to permit employers whose workplaces are governed by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) to reward their employees with additional wages or other compensation for their job performance. Under current law, providing employees whose CBAs do not address merit pay with individual bonuses constitutes “direct dealing” prohibited by the NLRA.
Tim Kane, Chief Economist of the Hudson Institute, spoke in favor of this bill. He said that the RAISE Act has the potential to remove some of the negative effects of unionization, and would have “no potential to hurt jobs or wages.” According to his productivity analysis, the legislation would result in a 10% increase in pay, and 200,000 new jobs.
The Secret Ballot Protection Act introduced last year would guarantee the right to secret ballot union representation elections. William L. Messenger, attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, testified on behalf of this bill. He stated that a secret ballot election should be a condition of unionization. He claimed that employees are more apt to vote their conscience in a private voting booth, and that Congress should also improve employees’ rights to decertify a union.
Finally, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would exempt “any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on its Indian lands” from the NLRA’s coverage. In recent years the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has extended its jurisdiction over businesses owned and operated by Native Americans. Robert Odawi Porter, President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, said that this measure would reassert tribal sovereignty over tribal affairs.
Ranking subcommittee member Robert Andrews (D-NJ), however, took issue with the legislation discussed during the hearing. He claimed that the “record is devoid of any indication that the enactment of these bills would engender economic growth.” Andrews argued also that the hearing was premised “on a narrative that is untrue.” Specifically, he denied the contention that the Board under the current administration has hindered jobs and employee rights. According to Andrews, the current Board has issued more unanimous decisions than did the prior Board.
Union-side attorney Devki K.Virk agreed, claiming that the bills discussed during the hearing would “actively undermine” the structure of federal labor relations policy. For example, Virk argued that the RAISE Act would take the issue of wages and “shift it back to the employer.”
A complete list of the hearing witnesses, links to their testimony, and an archived webcast of the session can be found here.