03.03.15

Murray Responds to GOP NLRB Resolution that Attacks Workers’ Rights

Murray: “Instead of standing up for workers across the country who are struggling with stagnant wages and poor working conditions, Republicans have chosen to challenge these common-sense reforms with a resolution of disapproval.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senator floor in response to the Republican attempt to defend corporate interests instead of standing up for workers who want to gain a seat at the bargaining table to improve their workplace. In her speech, Murray highlighted that the Republican resolution would stop the National Labor Relations Board’s new representation rule that would streamline and modernize the election process with modest and common-sense reforms. She also called on Republicans to work with Democrats on policies that protect workers’ rights, increase wages, and ensure the economy works for all families, not just the wealthiest few.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“I believe that real, long-term economic growth is built from the middle out, not the top down. And our government has a role to play in investing in working families, making sure they have the opportunity to work hard and succeed—and offering a hand up to those who want to climb the economic ladder and provide a better life for themselves and their families. Our government and our economy should be working for all families, not just the wealthiest few. Thankfully, we’ve had the opportunity to put some policies into place over the past few years that have pulled our economy back from the brink and have started moving it in the right direction.”

“Unfortunately, once again, instead of standing up for workers, my Republican colleagues are rushing to the defense of the biggest corporations that have an interest in keeping wages low and denying workers a voice to improve their workplace. Workers have the right to decide whether they want union representation. And, to ensure they are able to exercise that right, the National Labor Relations Board – or the NLRB – helps make sure workers have a fair up-or-down vote.”

“The reforms simply make common-sense updates to create a fair opportunity for workers to decide if they want union representation. But...some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle take great offense to these modest changes.  Instead of standing up for workers across the country who are struggling with stagnant wages and poor working conditions, Republicans have chosen to challenge these common-sense reforms with a resolution of disapproval. That’s why we’re here today. Instead of talking about how to create jobs and help working families who are struggling, Republicans would rather roll back workers’ rights to gain a voice at the bargaining table.”

This resolution would take the drastic step of also preventing the NLRB from adopting any similar election rules in the future. So, the outdated election process that leads to frivolous litigation and delays would remain frozen in time without further congressional action. Let’s be clear: This rule is about reducing unnecessary litigation, and allowing the use of cell phones and email. I’ve heard some of my colleagues call this ‘frontier justice.’ Everyone else calls it the 21st century.”

“So instead of attacking workers who just want a voice in the workplace, I hope my colleagues will reject this resolution. Instead, I hope Republicans will join Democrats and work with us to protect workers’ rights, increase wages, and grow our nation’s middle class. I truly hope we can break through the gridlock and work together on policies that create jobs, expand economic security, and generate broad-based economic growth for workers and families – not just for the wealthiest few.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, M. President. I believe that real, long-term economic growth is built from the middle out, not the top down.

“And our government has a role to play in investing in working families, making sure they have the opportunity to work hard and succeed—and offering a hand up to those who want to climb the economic ladder and provide a better life for themselves and their families.

“Our government and our economy should be working for all families, not just the wealthiest few. Thankfully, we’ve had the opportunity to put some policies into place over the past few years that have pulled our economy back from the brink and have started moving it in the right direction.

“We’re not there yet—but across the country, businesses have added almost 12 million new jobs over 59 straight months of job growth—including almost one million manufacturing jobs.

“The unemployment rate is now under 6 percent. Health care costs are growing at their lowest rate in almost fifty years—while millions more families have access to affordable coverage. The federal budget deficit has been reduced by more than two-thirds since President Obama took office.

“And although Republicans are now threatening to bring this back, we’ve been able to move away from the constant Tea Party-driven crises and uncertainty that was destroying jobs and holding back our economy.

“We are headed in a good direction—and I am proud of the policies we fought for that helped us get here. But we have a whole lot more to do.

“Over the past few decades, working families have seen their incomes stagnate—while the cost of living, health care, and education has continued to go up.

“For most workers, wages have stayed flat or have fallen over the past five decades. And according to the National Employment Law Project, from 2009 to 2013, hourly wages declined by 3.4 percent.

“During that time, low-and-mid-wage workers experienced greater declines than higher-wage workers. That means across our country today, too many families are struggling to make ends meet on rock-bottom wages and poor working conditions on the job.

“But M. President, while the middle class’s share of America’s prosperity is at an all-time low, the biggest corporations have posted record profits.

“In Congress, we should be working on ways to build an economy that works for all families, not just those at the top.

“Unfortunately, once again, instead of standing up for workers, my Republican colleagues are rushing to the defense of the biggest corporations that have an interest in keeping wages low and denying workers a voice to improve their workplace.

“Workers have the right to decide whether they want union representation. And, to ensure they are able to exercise that right, the National Labor Relations Board – or the NLRB – helps make sure workers have a fair up-or-down vote.

“Unfortunately, M. President, too often, big corporations take advantage of loopholes in the current election process to delay a vote on union representation. Unnecessary litigation and excessive delays threaten the rights of workers who want to have a free and fair election.

“In too many cases, big corporations take advantage of every possible opportunity and wasteful legal hurdle – sometimes on small technicalities – just to delay the vote. And sometimes, the confrontation and hostility during the election process can be extreme. A study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that among workers who openly advocate for a union during an election campaign, one in five is fired.

“Bureaucratic delays make the problem worse. Another study – this one from UC Berkeley – found that the longer the delay before an election, the more likely that the NLRB will charge employers with attempts to tamper with the vote.

“What’s clear from this research is that delays only create more barriers that deny workers their right to organize a union.

“The NLRB was absolutely right to carry out its mission to review and streamline its election process to bring down these barriers for workers to get a fair vote. Because it’s clear the current system is outdated and vulnerable to abuse.

“As I’ve mentioned, the current election process is overburdened by unnecessary and wasteful litigation, which drags out elections and puts workers’ rights on hold. Not only that, the election process for one region of the country could be substantially different in another region. That adds to inefficiencies and confusion.

“M. President, workers have the right to vote on union representation in elections that are efficient and free from unnecessary delays and wasteful stall tactics. So, after a rigorous review process, in December of last year, the NLRB made reforms to their election procedures.

“These updates will make modest – but important – changes to modernize and streamline the process. They will reduce unnecessary litigation on issues that won’t affect the outcome of the election. And the new reforms will bring the election process into the 21st century by letting employers and unions file forms electronically. They will also allow the use of more modern forms of communication to employees through cell phones and email.

“M. President, it’s important to note that in many regions, the NLRB has already adopted some of these much-needed reforms to the election process. So we know this can work.

“These reforms will simply standardize the best practices for the election process across regions, which will help all sides know what to expect during the process to promote uniformity and predictability.

“These changes aren’t just good for workers. They are also good for employers by streamlining the process when workers file a petition to have an election on whether to join a union.  And the reforms will make sure all sides have the information they need.

“I’ve laid out the improvements that the new reforms will make. But let’s talk about what the new guidelines will not do.

“The new process does not require elections to be held within any specific timeframe. I want to repeat that because it’s an important point. Contrary to what some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle argue, these new guidelines do not require elections to be held within any specific time frame.

“Not only that, but this rule does not – in any way – prevent companies from communicating their views about unionization. Employers are able to communicate extensively with their employees about union issues. And these reforms do nothing to stop that.

“So, M. President, employers would still be able to talk with their workers about what a union would mean for their company.  The reforms simply make common-sense updates to create a fair opportunity for workers to decide if they want union representation.

“But, M. President, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle take great offense to these modest changes.  Instead of standing up for workers across the country who are struggling with stagnant wages and poor working conditions, Republicans have chosen to challenge these common-sense reforms with a resolution of disapproval.

“That’s why we’re here today.

“Instead of talking about how to create jobs and help working families who are struggling, Republicans would rather roll back workers’ rights to gain a voice at the bargaining table.

“The Republicans’ attempt to stop this rule through a resolution would have major consequences for businesses, unions, and workers who want a fair election process.

“Passing the resolution would not only prevent the NLRB from implementing these common-sense reforms.  This resolution would take the drastic step of also preventing the NLRB from adopting any similar election rules in the future. So, the outdated election process that leads to frivolous litigation and delays would remain frozen in time without further congressional action.

“Let’s be clear: This rule is about reducing unnecessary litigation, and allowing the use of cell phones and email. I’ve heard some of my colleagues call this ‘frontier justice.’ Everyone else calls it the 21st century.

“By law, workers have the right to join a union so they can have a voice in the workplace. That is not an ambush.  It’s their right, as guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act and by the First Amendment of our Constitution.

‘So, when workers want to vote on whether to form a union, they aren’t looking for special treatment. They are simply trying to exercise their basic rights. And we as a nation should not turn our backs on empowering workers through collective bargaining – especially because that’s the very thing that helped so many workers climb into the middle class.

“Workers having a seat at the bargaining table is critical to America’s middle class. When more workers can stand up for their rights, wages increase, workplaces are safer, and access to health care goes up.  In short, Americans are better able to share in the economic prosperity that they’ve earned through hard work.

“It’s no coincidence that when union membership was at its peak in the middle of the last century, America’s middle class grew strong. Collective bargaining gave workers the power to increase wages.  Unions helped workers get the training they needed to build their skills so they could advance on the job.   They helped make sure men and women had safe workplaces. And through collective bargaining, access to health care rose.  And, M. President, workers shared in our country’s prosperity.

“All of these benefits strengthened economic security for the middle class and for those working hard to get there.  M. President, in Congress, we need to continue to work to expand economic security for more families. That should be our mission to move our country forward.  This resolution would simply be a step backward.

“So instead of attacking workers who just want a voice in the workplace, I hope my colleagues will reject this resolution. 

“Instead, I hope Republicans will join Democrats and work with us to protect workers’ rights, increase wages, and grow our nation’s middle class.

“I truly hope we can break through the gridlock and work together on policies that create jobs, expand economic security, and generate broad-based economic growth for workers and families – not just for the wealthiest few.

“Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.”

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