Yesterday Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced legislation to make it easier for workers to organize and form unions. They are making changes to the National Labor Relations Act the would make the formation of unions a civil right.
Here is a great introduction to the bill from the Washington Examiner:
“Ellison and Lewis’ legislation would dramatically expand the powers individual workers have under the act by allowing them to sue their employer in federal court under the Civil Rights Act.
The bill would also entitle workers filing lawsuits “to remedies like punitive and compensatory damages,” according to a Tuesday press release.
Currently most unfair labor practice complaints go through the National Labor Relations Board, which was created expressly for that purpose. Some labor disputes are handled by a second entity, the National Mediation Board. Big Labor has long complained the process is too slow.”
After Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis introduced the “Employee Empowerment Act,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:
“This important piece of legislation introduced today by Representatives Ellison and Lewis is emblematic of their deep commitment to workers’ rights and steadfast opposition to discrimination and intimidation anywhere, particularly at the workplace. The bill gives employees whose labor rights are violated the same legal remedies as those whose civil rights are violated at the workplace.
“Too often, employees seeking to unite with their co-workers to demand better wages, benefits and workplace safety provisions face aggressive and often illegal anti-union campaigns coordinated by their employer. Intimidation, illegal firings, wrongful discipline and other tactics aimed at breaking workers’ will are commonplace when they seek to join together on the job.
“Along with Representatives Ellison and Lewis, we believe that workers have the right to stick together and that there are powerful interests dead set on stripping them of that right. In order for workers to be heard, it’s often necessary to band together so companies take them seriously. Too many employers try to prevent this so they can limit workers’ power. Collective bargaining enables employees unite as a group so they can speak with a more powerful voice.
“We thank Representatives Ellison and Lewis for their leadership and hope that House leadership will take up this bill without delay.”
After the announcement AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Employee Empowerment Act:
Once again, Representatives Keith Ellison and John L. Lewis are leading in the fight to improve the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. The Employee Empowerment Act represents a crucial step towards ensuring that all workers are able to organize without the threat of retaliation and that workers will have full recourse available to them when employers interfere with their rights.
Eighty years ago, Congress made it the policy of the U.S. government to encourage the practice of collective bargaining – not just to tolerate it, but to expand it. Our economy was built on workers forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining. Further strengthening these rights is important to economic fairness. We need comprehensive changes to the law to strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the Employee Empowerment Act is an important piece of those reforms. By beefing up the remedies for workers who face discrimination or retaliation by their employers for trying to form or join a union, the bill strengthens worker protections and puts remedies under our labor laws on par with our civil rights laws. This helps better protect workers’ rights to organize and, when passed, will benefit workers and our entire economy.