NTF Issue Paper: cong157.doc. 3-19.

BACKGROUND. Socialist Democrats now dominate the House of Representatives. They wasted no time to introduce liberal bills anathema to taxpayers. Several of these bills boost forced unionism, a reward for the unions and union members who help finance their campaigns and volunteer their services.

THE BILL. Liberal Rep. Daniel Kildee (D.- Mich.) sponsored HR 1154, now in the House Education and Labor Committee. It would force all state and local governments to collectively bargain with public safety employees like police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Bargaining would include wages, hours, and all other terms and conditions of working. States must provide a dispute resolution mechanism like binding arbitration. The Federal Labor Relations Board (FLRA) given significant power to ensure the Act properly administered. This law would allow the FLRA to decide if state bargaining arrangements meet federal standards. If not, the FLRA would impose an agreement on a state or locality. 6 months after the enactment of the law, the FLRA will determine if a state meets the collective bargaining requirement standards of the Act. A state that fails to provide these required standards will fall subject to strict regulations and procedures promulgated by the FLRA. This federal bureaucracy could determine units for labor organization representation, conduct hearings, resolve complaints of unfair labor practices, and supervise and conduct elections to determine if a union would exclusively represent employees. FLRA regulations essentially would override current state labor relations laws and impose collective bargaining procedures for the state and localities. It may issue subpoenas to require testimony or the production of documents or other evidence. To enforce its dictates, the FLRA would have the power to issue orders that direct state and local public employers to comply with its bureaucratic regulations.

SUPPORTERS. Several Republican congressmen surprisingly support the bill. For twenty years, the International Assoc. of Firefighters union has fought to ram this legislation through Congress. By crude political intimidation, this union and other government union bosses seek to pester enough House and Senate Republicans to pass this bill.

OPPOSITION REASONING. First, most public safety employees already collectively bargain with government subdivisions. The bill fails to recognize that no state negates public employees the right to organize in some way. Virginia and North Carolina prohibit public employers from entering into collective bargaining agreements with labor unions but do not ban employee right to organize. This bill would end local control and flexibility by forcing states that do not collectively bargain to do so. Targeted governments might face cutting services or raising taxes. Various states and local governments have varying needs and should have freedom to tailor their policies to their specific needs. Collective bargaining does not work well in every region. Civil service laws protect government employees from abusive supervisors. Government unions bargain to use our tax dollars to benefit their members instead of public needs. Forcing collective bargaining on states and localities with deficits imposes a pricey unfunded mandate on them. Collective bargaining hikes state labor costs but does not provide federal funding to pay for them. Several provisions in the bill impose an “enforceable duty” upon state and local governments, for which the bill does not provide funding. States that offer more special privileges to government-sector union officials routinely burden their citizens with more debt and heavier taxation. State public pension plans stand underfunded by more than $6 trillion, according to “Unaccountable and Unaffordable 2018,” an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) report published in December, 2018, totaling up to $18,676 “for every resident of the United States.” Many government entities promote police and firefighters by merit and performance, not via collective bargaining seniority schedules. Merit promotions and raises encourage conscientious work and place the best employees in the most sensitive spots. The feds must not nullify this promotion system. HR 1154 would prevent the formation of volunteer firefighter groups. Firefighter unions strongly oppose volunteer firefighters because of the competition with and reduced need for paid firemen. The bill prevents employers from hiring employees who would work the same job for less money than union wages, thus undermining more qualified competitors. A non-union worker who prefers merit promotions must instead accept only what the union negotiates for him. States that do not require public employers to recognize and bargain with labor unions must incur costs to establish administrative structures to facilitate collective bargaining (James Sherk, Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics in the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation). State right to work laws would disappear. Federally-mandated union monopoly bargaining would control all state and local public safety employees nationwide. The bill would prevent government subdivisions the option to refuse to grant a union the power to speak for all government employees, including ones who do not want to join a union (National Right to Work Newsletter. February, 2019). It would dissolve state sovereignty and subject all public safety workers to compulsory unionism. Its title, suggesting public safety employer-employee cooperation, is misleading. The bill aims to give union officials monopoly control over all state and local government workers. Big Union bosses desperately want this law, because increasing membership in public sector unions would add to union ranks now depleted by private sector workers who shun unions. Public sector union membership already surpasses private sector membership. Unions fear the loss of union dues that funds campaign contributions. Congress also would need to greatly increase funding to the FLRA. Examining and enforcing collective bargaining standards on state and local governments across the country will become expensive. The agency must hire many new employees and create field offices in states that fail to comply with the new collective bargaining standards.

LEGAL RELIEF. Fortunately, since 2017, legislation that imposes costs on state and local governments over $78 million (this threshold is adjusted annually for inflation) permits a congressman to raise a point of order to stop the legislation from proceeding. This is a parliamentary maneuver whereby a member raises an objection on the floor of the legislative body to question an action that is contrary to the rules of the chamber (Trey Kovacs, Congressional Democrats Seek to Undermine Janus Decision, July 5, 2018). The U.S. Supreme Court recognized the rights of states to ban collective bargaining for public safety employees in the Smith v. Arkansas State Highway Employees ruling in 1979. The Supreme Court case of Printz v. U.S. ruled that the federal government could not force states to implement federal regulatory programs. Some states do not utilize collective bargaining or grant public employees only limited privileges under such agreements. Presently, in no state does a federal bureaucracy order labor relations for state and local government employees. This bill probably is not within the constitutional authority of Congress under the Commerce Clause, because it represents an unprecedented federal intrusion into state and local decisions and raises questions under the 10th Amendment (Memo for the Moment, Congress Should Oppose Labor Union Power Grab Legislation). The Supreme Court has determined that for Congress to regulate state and local activity under the Commerce Clause the local activity must be economic and “must substantially affect interstate commerce.” Public safety officers do not substantially affect interstate commerce, public employment not considered economic activity. Furthermore, in imposing a collective bargaining requirement on states, the law would not regulate the production, distribution, or consumption of a commodity for which there is an interstate market. The Supreme Court also decided in Janus v. AFSCME that forcing non-members to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates the 1st Amendment. “Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

BILL OPPONENTS. Groups opposing this liberal bill include Americans for Limited Government, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, Citizens United, Concerned Women for America, National Right to Work Committee, American Conservative Union, American Spectator magazine, Hudson Institute, and Media Research Center.

TAKE ACTION NOW. Forcing unionism on our brave and fearless front line public safety employees would eliminate their choice to join or decline to join a union. HR 1154 seriously would impinge on our state sovereignty and local privileges, eliminating the right to choose the means to negotiate employer-employee working wages and conditions. Nebraska must remain a right to work state. Contact our Capitol Hill congressmen today to vote NO on HR 1154, using the points above. Email netaxpayers@gmail.com to join our NTF Congress Watch Project.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 3-19. C

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