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Democratic Party Platform Seeks to Curb Worker Choice and Opportunity

Last week, the Democrats finalized their party platform. Of particular note are two sections, “Raise Incomes and Restore Economic Security for the Middle Class” and “Create Good-Paying Jobs.” Despite these positive-sounding titles, though, the platform is simply doubling-down on failed policies.

The Democrats’ platform declares:

Republican governors, legislatures, and their corporate allies have launched attack after attack on workers’ fundamental rights to organize and bargain collectively.

[…]

Democrats believe so-called “right to work” laws are wrong for workers—such as teachers and other public employees who serve our communities every day—and wrong for America.

Democrats routinely make the argument that right-to-work laws are an attack on workers’ right to organize. However, all the law does is allow workers to opt-out of paying forced union dues. Right to work does not infringe on workers’ right to organize or collective bargaining, but does take away organized labor’s privilege of forcing workers to pay dues to a union they do not support.

Right to work laws provide workers with a choice. In states without such laws, an individual is forced to financially support an organization they disagree with or risk being penalized.

Forced dues are inappropriate because most workers never voted for the union that represents them. Once a union organizes a workplace, it remains the monopoly bargaining agent over the workforce and never stands for reelection. As I’ve noted in the past, “[A]s little as less than 7 percent of the current private sector workforce has ever voted for the union that represents them in contract negotiations that determine their pay and workplace conditions.”

Also of interest, The Nation reports that presumptive vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has long supported his state’s right to work law.

The platform goes on to say:

We will fight to pass laws that direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards.

This section of the Democrat’s agenda seeks to do away with secret-ballot elections. Currently, a union has two ways to organize workers: secret-ballot election or a procedure known as card-check.

Under a secret-ballot union election, voters may cast their ballots anonymously, which prevents attempts to intimidate workers or influence their votes.

Organizing via signed valid authorization cards, or card-check elections, leaves workers open to intimidation and coercion. Just ask Marlene Felter, a hospital worker from California. Ms. Felter testified before Congress about her awful experience dealing with the Service Employee International Union’s card-check campaign.

The platform also supports another labor rule that will do more harm than good:

We will defend President Obama's overtime rule, which protects of millions of workers by paying them fairly for their hard work.

Unfortunately, no matter how many times President Obama says the overtime rule will give millions of workers a raise, that does not mean it is true. As I wrote in a recent op-ed, the Department of Labor’s final rule that requires overtime pay for hours worked over 40 is “grounded by two policy objectives: One, ‘spread employment… by incentivizing employers to hire more employees rather than requiring existing employees to work longer hours.’ Two, ‘reduce overwork and its detrimental effect on the health and well-being of workers.’”

Other than selling a false bill of goods, the overtime rule imposes other harmful impacts on workers and small business. Added costs imposed by the overtime rule may present a governmental roadblock on ambitious employees.

Here is an example I laid out in a previous post that shows how low-level managers may be hurt by the overtime rule:

Many companies, like supermarket chain Wegmans, promote from within (66 percent of jobs are filled from through internal promotions). This means that an employee with only a high school education may start off as an hourly worker performing the tasks of cashier or helper in the seafood department, but after working hard and showing some promise, they may receive a promotion to assistant manager.

Upon becoming an assistant manager, that employee starts gaining better-than-routine skills, receives a change of pay from hourly to salary, gains new benefits, and is on a better career path. In exchange, the employer may expect that employee to work more than 40 hours a week. Both the employer and employee accept that exchange and are better off.

But now, under the new overtime rule, an employer may choose not to promote an hourly worker to a salaried assistant manager position. Instead of paying a salary to get the job done, an employer has to pay overtime for every hour over 40 for workers that earn less than $47,476, as many low-level managers do. The employer may view that as a bad deal and keep the employee with only a high school education in the hourly job. Ultimately, the overtime rule may end up acting as a governmental roadblock on ambitious hourly workers.

On a final note, the Democrat platform broadly supports small business:

The Democratic Party will make it easier to start and grow a small business in America, unlike Donald Trump, who has often stiffed small businesses—nearly bankrupting some—with his deceptive and reckless corporate practices. By supporting small business and entrepreneurship, we can grow jobs faster in America. We will cut the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs.

However, under the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that severely harms the ability for small businesses to start and grow. If Democrats are serious in their support of small business, they should consider reversing the NLRB’s recent joint employer standard.

The new joint employer standard places a huge burden on employers that contract with small businesses. In short, the NLRB has greatly expanded when two businesses are considered a joint employer and liable for labor violations of another. Previously, a business had to directly control another company’s workers to assume joint employer liability. Now simply possessing indirect or unexercised potential control over another company may put a business on the hook for joint employer liabilities.

The intent behind the rule is to hold larger businesses accountable for the actions of smaller businesses they contract with. This inevitably makes a larger business think twice about contracting out work to small businesses even if they can do it more efficiently. Despite cost-savings that may be achieved by contracting out certain work, under the new joint employer standard, a big businesses is more likely to keep the work in-house.

The policies set forth in the Democrat platform are misguided – in order to help American workers really succeed in the 21st century, we should roll back undue regulations that stifle entrepreneurship and small business. To see more, check out the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Agenda for Congress section on Labor and Employment