Unions Threatened by Rubio's RAISE Act

Unions Threatened by Rubio's RAISE Act

Last month Senator Marco Rubio introduced the RAISE Actin Congress. The RAISE Act has a very simple goal: “To amend theNational Labor Relations Act to permit employers to pay higher wages totheir employees.” You might think that this would be an easy sell. Whowould come out against higher wages?

But as James Sherk notes in NRO’s The Corner, SEIU’s presedent Mary Kay Henry is not happy about this “attempt to undermine the rights of workers”:

The RAISE Act is an unnecessary attack on workers’ rights, and itundermines the fairness collective bargaining contracts bring to theworkplace. We cannot allow Senator Rubio to deny unionized employees theright to raises that are granted free from discrimination,arbitrariness, and favoritism.

The RAISE act does not allow employers to lower anyone’s wages, butit does allow them to pay more to individuals based on individualperformance. In his defense of the RAISE Act, Senator Rubio explains howthis precedent was set:

If unionized companies go ahead and pay productive workers higherwages, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will strike them down.This precedent goes back decades. In NLRB vs. C & C Plywood Corp.(1967), a business had agreed to pay up to $17 an hour (in today’s dollars). The company announced, over union objections, that everyonewould get $18.50 an hour if they met productivity goals. The NLRBordered the company to stop paying the raises, and the Supreme Courtupheld the decision. In sum, companies were forbidden from paying morethan the union rate without the union’s permission.

Even small individual bonuses areillegal. The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York gave its best nurses$100 gift cards as a token of appreciation. The NLRB ordered thehospital to cease and desist.

The SEIU and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights come very close to accusing the RAISE Act of being racist or at least a cover for incipient racism and sexism:

The RAISE Act would unfairly give employers the right to disregardnegotiated contractual agreements and to arbitrarily grant pay increasesin any amount to selected employees.  This could easily result indiscrimination against certain employees, including older workers andemployees of color, and expand the wage disparity between men and womenin the workplace.

There’s not doubt that treating people as individuals comes with thepotential for abuse. But those concerns should also be addressed anddealt with individually, not used as an excuse to prevent outstandingemployees from being rewarded for excellence.

The RAISE Act has potential upside for both employees and employers.The only group that definitely loses out are unions like the SEIU whosepower is predicated on controlling an undifferentiated mass of workers. This is a battle the forces of collectivism should lose.

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