Monday, July 28, 2014

“Unionism” as a protected class?

Way back in 2012, the New York Times published an op-ed titled, A Civil Right to Unionize, which argued that Title VII needs to be amended to include “the right to unionize” as a protected civil right. At the time, I argued that including “unionism” as a protected class was the worst idea ever. Apparently, at least one Congressman disagrees with me.

MSNBC is reporting that later this week Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) “plans to unveil legislation that would make unionization into a legally protected civil right,” on par with “race, color, sex, religion and national origin.” His goal is to make it “easier for workers to take legal action against companies that violate their right to organize.”

I agree with Representative Ellison that employees should never be fired for “expressing an intent to support union activity.” The problem with his idea, however, is that this is a right that the law already protects. Sec. 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer … by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.”

So there is no mistake on how I feel about this proposal, here’s what I said in March 2012, in response to the Times’s op-ed on this issue:

With apologies to union supporters, there is no reality in which “unionism” exists on the same level as race, sex, disability, or the other protected classes. The “greatest impediment” to unions isn’t “weak and anachronistic labor laws.” It’s intelligent and strong-willed employees who understand that whatever benefit they might receive from a labor union is not worth the dues that come out of their paychecks.

And, the reality is that despite all of this pro-union rhetoric, labor unions are doing just fine without any additional help. Unions wins more than two-thirds of representation elections. All this proposal does is increase the burden for employers, without providing any appreciable benefit to employees — which is why I feel comfortable asking if this proposal is the worst idea ever.

There is no chance this bill will go anywhere but the legislative trash heap if it’s introduced as promised. Nevertheless, it serves as a good reminder that there exists legislators who want to make you job as an employer harder than it already is.