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Sen. Marco Rubio

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Congressional Republicans are proposing a bill they claim would improve "teamwork" between workers and management. In reality, it would allow businesses to bring back the "company unions" used in the 1920s and 1930s to prevent workers from achieving meaningful gains.

Last Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act of 2022, a bill "to enable an employer or employees to establish an employee involvement organization to represent the interests of employees." Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) and 12 GOP colleagues filed the same bill in the House.

In a February 3 press release, Rubio and Banks claimed the bill "would provide workers seeking to organize with an alternative to unionization that allows both workers and managers to work together, without fearing heavy-handed legal action or bureaucratic meddling from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)," and noted that it is supported by "conservative labor experts."

Rubio said the bill would help protect companies from having to negotiate with their employees "by creating a pro-worker alternative to unions, which are notoriously left-wing and almost always pit workers against management, only worsening the workplace environment."

Banks claimed the bill would allow workers' voices to be heard without having to embrace "the left's woke agenda."

Labor unions have strongly opposed so-called "company unions," arguing that they allow businesses to run roughshod over their workers.

According to an issue brief by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, "In the 1920s and 1930s, large numbers of employers established management-dominated employee organizations — known as 'company unions' — to thwart the efforts of workers to form their own independent unions."

In 1935, Congress stepped in, passing the National Labor Relations Act. Section 8(a)(2) of that law made it illegal for a business "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it."

The new bill would eliminate those protections, making it possible for employers to "establish, assist, maintain, or participate in an employee involvement organization" where employees and supervisors "address matters of mutual interest, including issues of quality of work, productivity, efficiency, compensation, benefits (including related to education and training), recruitment and retention, grievances, child care, safety and health, and accommodation of the religious beliefs and practices of employees."

A 1995 AFL-CIO executive council statement warned that without the National Labor Relations Act's protections, "non-union employers would be free to create phony employee organizations and fake employee committees and handpick the 'leaders' of these organizations. Employers would then be free to deal with these management-anointed 'representatives' as if they were the real voice of the employees."

They also noted that, even in unionized workplaces, companies could "create, fund, and deal with a rival, company-controlled entity" to undermine the existing union and destabilize its collective bargaining efforts.

At that time, Republicans in Congress were pushing a nearly identical effort. The original Teamwork Act, authored by Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-WI) was passed by the GOP-run House in September 1995 and Senate in July 1996 — mostly along party lines.

President Bill Clinton stopped their bill with a veto, writing, "Rather than encouraging true workplace cooperation, this bill would abolish protections that ensure independent and democratic representation in the workplace. True cooperative efforts must be based on true partnerships."

Rubio and Banks said their new bill is "modeled off" of Gunderson's proposal.

Since the 1996 effort failed, Republicans have largely backed off the idea. But now that the Democratic majority in Congress is trying to expand labor rights through the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and through the Build Back Better framework, these 14 GOP lawmakers are trying to undermine unions.

The House bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Rick Allen (GA), Brian Babin (TX), Tom Cole (OK), Byron Donalds (UFL), Mike Garcia (CA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Tracey Mann (KS), Mary Miller (IL), Ralph Norman (SC), David Rouzer (NC), Austin Scott (GA), and Claudia Tenney (NY).

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

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