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October 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 29

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Employee Rights Act of 2017


by Don Racheter, Ph.D.



The most comprehensive update to American labor law since the enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 is being considered by the United States Congress this year. Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) has introduced the Employee Rights Act (ERA) and has attracted 33 Senators and 170 Representatives as co-sponsors.[1] Neither Senator Grassley nor Senator Ernst are among the co-sponsors. Of the four Iowa Legislators with seats in the U.S. House, Representative Steve King is the only co-sponsor. Once you make up your mind about the ERA, let your elected representatives know how you want them to vote when this issue comes before them.


According to polls, roughly 80 percent of Americans — including those in union households — support the bill’s provisions. Historically, unions emerged as a way for workers to band together to bargain with their employers for better wages and hours and safe working conditions. Union leaders were selected from the membership to advance the interests of the members, but today too many “union leaders” are ignoring the interests of the workers in order to pursue their own political agendas.


The ERA’s provisions would guarantee a secret-ballot election on union representation and prevent an employer (usually due to pressure from union leadership) from denying a secret-ballot election. If the ERA is adopted, election results would have to be carried by a majority of the members of the bargaining unit, not just a majority of those who vote in a particular election. It would also require all unionized workplaces to hold periodic secret-ballot elections to determine if employees wish to remain represented by the current union, change to a different union, or have no union at all. In a sop to vigorous union resistance to the bill, these elections would only have to be held if 50 percent of the union membership is new since the last election, not held every two years like elections for members of the House of Representatives. Eighty-one percent of non-union households and seventy-one percent of union households support these provisions.


According to data from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than seven percent of unionized workers have actually had a chance to vote for their “leaders” due to failure to have periodic recertification. Workers should not inherit a union, but should choose one knowingly if it provides them with valued services; they should not have to go to court to force the union to hold such recertification elections. These changes would protect workers from the current “card-check” practice, in which unions bully or trick workers into publically signing a form asking for the union rather than being able to vote their true feelings in a secret-ballot election. According to NLRB data, roughly 40 percent of union recognitions are achieved through “card check” instead of an election of any kind.


Finally, if the ERA is adopted and signed into law by President Trump, unions would also have to receive specific opt-in permission from each union member to use his or her dues for purposes other than collective bargaining — that is, political contributions (the vast majority of which now go only to Democrats, even though data shows that up to 43 percent of union members vote Republican). It should be noted that 81 percent of BOTH union and non-union households support these provisions.


Under the ERA, employees would have the right to opt out of having their personal information (address, cell phone number, email address, and work schedules) shared with a union trying to organize their workplace. This would help prevent harassment of both workers and their family members as a way to pressure them into voting for a union they really do not want “representing” them. Seventy-nine percent of non-union and eighty-five percent of union households support these provisions.


As a follow-up, adoption of the ERA would result in changes to the existing National Labor Relations Act and prohibit unions from intimidating or coercing employees who attempt to exercise their right to call for a decertification election if they are unhappy with the “representation” they are getting from their current union. Indeed, the act would make it a crime for unions to use violence, or threats of violence, to coerce employees in any situation. Amazingly, the NLRB under “progressive leadership” has declared that actual violence against union members by their “leadership” is NOT a crime!

Overwhelmingly, 92 percent of non-union households and 88 percent of union households support these ERA provisions.


The act would specify that union leaders could not call a strike without the bargaining unit having the right to a secret-ballot vote on the issue. Strikes can pose significant hardships on workers, as they usually only receive 10–20 percent of their wages from the union strike fund. A sizable majority, 83 percent of non-union households and 85 percent of union households, supports this aspect of the ERA.


[1] Facts presented in this BRIEF are drawn from the Center for Union Facts at, accessed on July 10, 2017.


Dr. Don Racheter is President of Public Interest Institute, Muscatine, Iowa.
Contact him at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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