Why Workers Deserve the Employee Rights Act, Part 2: Union Recertification

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In Part 1 of “Why Workers Deserve the Employee Rights Act,” the focus was on the ERA provision that mandates secret-ballot elections and how a private vote in a union representation election protects workers from coercive union tactics.

A relatively novel provision of the ERA will be discussed in Part 2, known as union recertification. Only Wisconsin requires union recertification elections, and only for public employees, and so far the reform has been well received by government workers (see “Third Largest Wisconsin Teachers Union Members Exercise New Freedom“).

Specifically, the ERA amends the National Labor Relations Act to require union recertification elections when a bargaining unit “experiences turnover, expansion, or alteration by merger of unit represented employees exceeding 50 percent of the bargaining unit.” Once this happens, a secret-ballot recertification election is triggered and a vote on whether to keep union representation takes place.

If the majority of the workers vote to reject continuing union representation, the National Labor Relations Board decertifies the union. At this point, the union is ordered to cease representing the bargaining unit employees and any collective bargaining agreement still in effect is terminated.

Why is it important for unions to revalidate their support among collective bargaining employees?

First, according to the Center for Union Facts, the percentage of employees that voted for their union is less than 10 percent! In a study, Heritage Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics James Sherk finds that just

7 percent of private-sector union members voted for their union. The remaining 93 percent are automatically represented by a union they had no say in electing. This number may seem high, but the labor movement organized far more workers in the past than today… The vast majority of unions that exist today are inherited unions. Few current employees had a say in forming them.

Second, as Competitive Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow Russ Brown explained in Forbes, it is extremely difficult for private-sector workers to decertify their union:

If they decide they don’t want the union representing them, their only option is a decertification election, held after the expiration of a contract or a narrow 30-day window near the end of the third year of a contract. The union can circumvent a time window by agreeing to a new contract before the window opens—thus moving the window to the end of the new contract, when they can move it again.

Even worse, under the current labor law (Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act), unions are empowered to discipline members who even advocate to decertify their union.

But the ERA fixes these problems. Union recertification elections make sure the majority of workers a union represents (and collect dues from) still actually want a union. Also, the ERA creates penalties for labor unions that interfere with union decertification petitions.

In addition, both union and non-union households support union recertification elections. According to EmployeeRightsAct.com poll, 85 percent of non-union households were strongly/somewhat supportive and 77 percent of union households were strongly/somewhat supportive.

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