WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, urged Department of Labor (DOL) Acting Secretary Julie Su to follow the nation’s labor laws as Congress intended. This comes as Starbucks Workers United is pressuring DOL to implement U.S. labor laws in accordance with standards created by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations organization that seeks to apply uniform labor laws internationally.
In a written complaint to the ILO, Workers United claimed that U.S. labor laws violate two ILO standards, Convention 87 and Convention 98. Since 1949, these Senate has refused to ratify these standards which fundamentally violate the First Amendment, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the Railway Labor Act (RLA) protections of workers, business and unions.
Julie Su, the chair of President’s Committee on the ILO, will be responsible for providing the Biden administration’s response to this complaint. Cassidy emphasized that the Biden administration does not have the authority to unilaterally replace or alter our nation’s labor laws, and that they should enforce these laws fairly as Congress intended.
“The allegations made by Workers United to the ILO are contradictory simply because the National Labor Relations Act is working to protect the rights of all workers. This includes the rights of workers who do not want to join a union,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “If parties would like to seek broader changes to labor law, they may petition their elected officials to make such changes through legislation.
“Only Congress, duly elected by the American people, can change federal labor law—regardless of the conventions passed by the ILO or any other foreign or international entity,” continued Dr. Cassidy.
Read the full letter here or below.
Dear Acting Secretary Su:
As the chair of the President’s Committee on the International Labour Organization (ILO), you will be charged with providing the official government response to Workers United’s complaint alleging interference with organizing and bargaining rights by Starbucks Corporation. I write to remind you that only Congress can change federal labor law.
The letter from Workers United, the trade union associated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), claims that United States labor law does not comply with the standards outlined by the ILO. It further claims that Starbucks Corporation has been able to violate the law because of these alleged gaps. Workers United requests that the United States Government accept an on-the-spot mission to allow all relevant parties to meet regarding the unionization efforts of Starbucks employees. Furthermore, it notes the “stymied” PRO Act in the Senate, claiming the filibuster is to blame for the lack of action. The PRO Act is a partisan effort to shift labor law in favor of unions, and the legislation does not even have unanimous support from Senate Democrats. The Senate Majority Leader has the power to bring the PRO Act to the floor for consideration, however he has not done so. The letter also alleges that United States labor law does not align with Conventions 87 and 98, questions the speed with which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is responding to complaints filed by union organizers, and questions if the remedies provided by the Board are sufficient. It is the role of the Senate to provide advice and consent to all treaties negotiated by the executive branch. As such, both Conventions 87 and 98 need approval from a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate in order to be ratified.
Article 1 of the Constitution makes it clear that changes to federal law can only be enacted by Congress. The American legal system allows for robust investigation of complaints and a system of adjudication that emphasizes due process. The allegations made by Workers United to the ILO are contradictory simply because the National Labor Relations Act is working to protect the rights of all workers. This includes the rights of workers who do not want to join a union. Workers, unions, and employers all have the right to file an unfair labor practice to the NLRB. If parties would like to seek broader changes to labor law, they may petition their elected officials to make such changes through legislation.
Only Congress, duly elected by the American people, can change federal labor law—regardless of the conventions passed by the ILO or any other foreign or international entity. Therefore, I request answers to the following questions, on a question-by-question basis, by October 13, 2023:
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.