Over 60 House Republicans are pushing a bill to gut workers rights


So much for being the 'workers party.'

A group of 62 House Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday to attack unions and make it harder for workers to bargain collectively.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) is the chief House sponsor of the National Right to Work Act, a proposal he said "promotes the freedoms of hard-working Americans and promotes jobs" by eliminating longstanding federal laws that require workers to pay their fair share for union representation.

He filed a similar bill in the last Congress and gathered 108 co-sponsors — all Republicans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and 26 GOP colleagues backed the Senate version.

In 23 states and Washington, D.C., if a majority of workers vote to unionize, businesses must recognize their union and bargain collectively on wages, benefits, and workplace conditions. While no one is required to join the union if they do not wish to, those who do not do so must pay a smaller fee for the benefit of the union's representation.

But 27 other states have adopted so-called "right to work" laws, which effectively let those who do not join the union have a free ride. This disincentivizes people from joining unions and collectively bargaining.

Wilson's bill would make every state a right-to-work state. Nearly all of the 20 House Republican backers appearing in his announcement video represent states that have already adopted these rules they now seek to force on the rest of the country.

Labor unions strongly oppose this legislation, noting that it would hurt workers. They point to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows workers in right-to-work states make $6,109 less annually, on average, than those who live in states with labor protections and that workplace deaths are 54% more common.

"'Right to starve' is the biggest scam around," AFSCME spokesperson Blaine Rummel said in an email. "Does anyone really think that the problem in America is that regular folks make too much money or that they have too much retirement security? That's that hogwash the billionaires behind this scam are trying to sell — to keep everyone but themselves stuck in a race to the bottom."

A 2017 analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund concluded that national right-to-work legislation "stems directly from a long-term campaign by special interests to erode the impact of worker voices and blunt their ability to bargain for a better deal" and would "stymie workers who seek to defend their interests."

This latest push comes just days after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to rebrand the GOP as a pro-labor party.

In a Feb. 8 interview with Punchbowl News, McCarthy (R-CA) claimed the GOP has "always been about conservative ideas, promoting opportunity, and the uniqueness of this party today is we're the workers party, we're the American workers' party."

The GOP bill is unlikely to pass this year, given that Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House. In the last Congress, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a bill to extend labor protections to workers in the 27 states that have undermined them, on a mostly party-line vote. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it from even getting a vote in his chamber. But House Democrats have already announced they will try again this year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.