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House GOP criticizes Biden's labor policies amid rising union support

By Sophia Didinova, Medill News Service
"The American people understand that President Biden's economic policies actually harm working-class families. The biggest factor in raising workers' wages is a strong economy," U.S. Rep Bob Good, R-Va., said Wednesday at a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
"The American people understand that President Biden's economic policies actually harm working-class families. The biggest factor in raising workers' wages is a strong economy," U.S. Rep Bob Good, R-Va., said Wednesday at a hearing by the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- House representatives clashed Wednesday over the fairness of union organization, with the Republican majority of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions calling it "big labor lies" and "union tactics to undermine free elections."

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., said the need for unions is not on the radar anymore, and employees' desire to be members is diminishing.

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And Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., noted that workers seek better conditions in a robust economy that cannot be achieved under the Biden administration's economic and labor policies.

"The American people understand that President Biden's economic policies actually harm working-class families. The biggest factor in raising workers' wages is a strong economy," Good said.

However, recent polls by public research firm GBAO show that support for unions is at the highest level in decades, particularly among young workers.

Unionizing provides workers with gains in pay, benefits, and working conditions, and non-benefit workers take advantage of it, as well, said Lynn Rhinehart, a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute.

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"This is the fifth anti-union and anti-worker hearing that the majority has held this Congress," said Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga. "And it's no coincidence that these are coming at a time when unions are successfully organizing and negotiating in some of the most difficult places in the country."

Republican representatives, however, questioned the legitimacy of many unions, asserting that often they are organized by a minority of workers and do not wholly represent the workplace.

"[They] might not reflect the true wishes of the majority of workers," said Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich.

Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., further questioned the union organizing process, asserting that secret ballot elections should be the standard. He said his proposed Employee Rights Act would help legalize it and "protect workers from coercive union tactics."

However, Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., noted that it's not the unions, but rather the employers act coercively, as 75% of companies conduct mandatory meetings for anti-union campaigns.

Rhinehart reinforced her statement, saying that in general, union organizers cannot get inside the workplace to talk to employees, and employers have the greatest access to workers.

"If the union organizer is not an employee, they have to stand in the parking lot, if the parking lot is open, or they have to stand on the street to try to talk to workers as they come and go from work," she said.

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According to McBath, union-to-employer negotiations also imply different stakes for the company and the workers.

She said that if a workplace is closed due to shutdown attempts to organize or workers are illegally fired, they lose their livelihood and the ability to provide for themselves and their families.

However, Rhinehart noted, the National Labor Relations Act does not apply a monetary penalty for illegally firing a worker.

"Many workers are not provided with a fair opportunity to consider the benefits or the drawbacks of unionizing because their employers take advantage of weak enforcement laws," said Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn.

Rhinehart emphasized that unions also benefit the employer because unionized workers have less turnover, which saves the business money on recruitment and replacement.

"We should support employers and unions coming together to reach agreements," she said.

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