By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 18, the House Education and the Workforce Committee today approved a bill introduced by US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) that would block the Department of Labor’s controversial “persuader” rule.
Congressman Byrne said in Committee, “This resolution is about standing up for the rights of workers and employers. The Obama administration has continually put the interests of union leaders ahead of what’s best for hardworking Americans. It’s disappointing, because working families are struggling in today’s economy, which we recently heard is growing at an anemic rate of only 0.5 percent.”
Congressman Byrne charged that the “persuader” regulation will make it harder for employers to communicate with employees and undermine the right of workers to make informed decisions in union activities. Byrne claims that the “persuader” rule would upend decades of labor law in an effort to require employers to report virtually any contact with advisors on union-related issues. This is a substantial departure from the long-standing labor policy that requires disclosure only when an advisor had direct contact with employees. Unions and their advisors are exempt from these new reporting requirements.
Rep. Byrne said, “Time and time again, this administration has catered to powerful union interests at the expense of hardworking families. We won’t sit back while the department rewrites decades of labor policy in a partisan effort to silence employers and stifle worker free choice.” “This rule will make it far more difficult for small businesses to obtain legal advice during union elections, and even worse, for workers to hear from both sides of the debate. Congress has a responsibility to protect the rights of America’s workers and job creators, and today’s vote is an important step.”
Congressman Byrne said, “Instead of focusing on ways to grow the economy and empower more Americans with opportunities to move up the economic ladder, the administration has been working around the clock to check off their Big Labor wish list. The latest example is the Department of Labor’s “persuader” rule, which radically alters long-standing policies employers must follow when communicating with their employees about union-related issues. The well-established “advice” exemption of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act has been in effect during the Kennedy administration, the Johnson administration, the Carter administration, and the Clinton administration. But now, decades later, the Obama administration is working around Congress and unilaterally rewriting the law.”
Byrne’s legislation, H.J. Res. 87, would block the rule under the Congressional Review Act. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval that would prevent a federal agency from implementing a rule without Congressional authorization. Legislation under the Congressional Review Act cannot be filibustered in the Senate which allows for expedited consideration.
The resolution passed by a vote of 21 to 10.
Rep. Byrne said, “As someone who has practiced labor law, I know firsthand how complicated and confusing federal labor policies are. I’m from Southwest Alabama, where we don’t have many large employers, but we have many small businesses. When faced with a union-organizing campaign, most of these small companies don’t have HR departments or in-house attorneys to turn to for advice, so they find someone like me to help them understand what the law is. However, the invasive and costly requirements under this new rule will severely limit the ability of small businesses in Alabama and across the country to get the legal advice they need. They’ll be stripped of their confidential attorney-client relationship and lose their fundamental right to counsel, and as a result, they’ll be forced to fend for themselves. Many small businesses, despite their best efforts, will inadvertently get tripped up while trying to navigate a maze of labor rules on their own—I’ve seen this with many clients over the years who are simply trying to understand and follow the law.”
Byrne charged that the administration and their labor allies, “Aren’t interested in fair and democratic union elections. Instead, they are interested in tilting the balance of power toward union bosses.” “As members of Congress, we don’t have to sit back while the administration tramples on the rights of employers and employees. We have the power, and the responsibility, to block this harmful rule under the Congressional Review Act. And we have a choice, to stand with Big Labor or to stand with America’s workers. I urge my colleagues to stand with America’s workers today and support this resolution, and I yield back the balance of my time.”
Labor union membership in this country has been falling for decades; but the unions are still very influential, especially in Democratic circles, due to their ability to convert dues dollars into financial support for candidates.
Byrne’s bill will still have to pass the full House before going to the Senate.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.