Reconciliation bill contains giveaways for unions

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People demonstrate in support of Alabama Amazon worker organizing efforts in Los Angeles, California on March 22, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)

There’s a new report by James Sherk, former Heritage Foundation labor economist and Trump White House labor policy adviser, on Democrats’ union proposals in the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process, which is supposed to be about taxes and spending, to adopt a wishlist of long-standing pro-union demands.

On September 17, I wrote about the bill’s tax break for union members, which makes it easier for people to donate money to organizations that disproportionately help elect Democrats. But there is more to the unions than that in the bill.

Sherk notes that the bill would ban all staff meetings to discuss unionization. If employees are considering unionizing, it is normal for employers to call an all staff meeting to discuss the potential inconvenience of doing so. Unions have long opposed such meetings because they give employers the opportunity to dissuade their employees from unionizing. Unions would still be able to reach employees in any way they are currently permitted, including obtaining the names and addresses of employees and going to their homes to sell their union membership. Democrats are trying to tilt the playing field in favor of unions by preventing employers from meeting with employees.

The bill would also increase funding for the Labor Ministry to enforce the “misclassification” of workers as independent contractors, according to Sherk. Many workers in the gig economy are independent contractors, which means many work the hours they want and don’t have a set schedule, a valuable perk. Independent contractors cannot organize in the same way as employees, however, as independent contractors become a larger part of the workforce, the pool of potential union members shrinks. We’ve already seen the shift to independent contractor status happen in California with AB 5, which was adopted and then quickly reversed for much of the workforce. We don’t need it at the national level.

Sherk finds that the bill provides for a tax credit that only applies to electric cars produced with unionized workers, undermining any claim that it concerns the environment, as non-union electric cars would have the same carbon emissions as unionized ones. He also notes that the bill would prohibit lockouts for companies, which are the opposite of strikes, thus depriving them of significant bargaining power over unions.

Despite all of these benefits for unions, nothing in the reconciliation bill would change the fundamental calculation for workers: joining a union isn’t really worth it for most people in the 21st century. Sherk points out that “union job losses caused the entire net decline in manufacturing jobs” between 1974 and 2019. Non-union manufacturing employment actually increased during this period. Union membership has been steadily declining since the 1970s in all areas – across the Democratic and Republican administrations, with and without right-to-work laws, and regardless of the performance of the economy.

The world has gone way beyond unions, and they haven’t realized that most workers don’t need them anymore. Or maybe they did, and they’re just trying to squeeze the last possible benefits out of their favorite political party, hidden away in a 2,465-page bill.

Dominic Pino is the William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.


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