Congressman Goes for the Jugular with Most Anti-Federal-Union Legislation in Decades

Categories: Congress

If you are a federal employee, you can choose to join or not to join a union. It’s your choice. If you decide to join, you pay dues. To make it convenient, your dues are deducted from your paycheck so you don’t have to remember the due date or write a check every month – just like you do with your health insurance or charitable donations. So what’s the problem exactly?

Well, there is someone in Congress who’s trying to take away your freedom to join a union and make your own decision about what to do with your paycheck.

Congressman Tom Price from Georgia has just introduced a bill, H.R. 4461, to take away your right to have your dues deducted from your pay check. He doesn’t think you’re smart enough to choose whether or not to become a union member. He says this is about “forced union dues” but what he’s really trying to do is make it hard for union members to advocate for a better life for themselves and their families. It is a naked assault on your right to choose how you spend your money. He doesn’t have the right to tell you how to spend your money.

But that is just the tips of the iceberg. He wants to strip your basic workplace rights to come together with your coworkers to have a real voice at work. He wants to water down your constitutional right to assemble freely. He proposed that anyone who chooses not to show up during a union election is automatically counted as a ‘no’ vote, shattering any semblance of democracy.

In short, he wants to silence your voice on the job. It’s the most blatant, venomous attack on workers’ rights we’ve ever seen, and AFGE will not stand for it.

“This is the most obscene in a long line of systematic attacks on working-class and middle-class Americans at the local, state and federal levels,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The sole objective of these anti-labor actions is to make it as difficult as possible for working people to join together and defend basic rights and protections that all workers in this country deserve.”

This bill is misleadingly named the Federal Employee Rights Act, but don’t let the title fool you.

Here are the facts:

  • Every federal employee who belongs to a union joined voluntarily by filling out and submitting a membership form. There is no automatic membership and no one is forced to pay union dues.
  • Rigging the outcome of an election by assigning “no” votes to employees who choose not to vote is an outrageous incursion into an employee’s freedom to make his or her own choice. Indeed, it’s a threat to democracy itself. Were this rule to be implemented in Rep. Price’s own election, tens of thousands of voters who didn’t bother to show up to the polls would count as votes against him. Clearly, his proposal is about rigging elections to stop workers from organizing, not protecting employee rights.
  • Secret ballot elections are and always have been the primary means for employees to bring a union voice to their worksite. There is no need to guarantee secret ballot elections because they are already the standard.

Let’s be clear: this bill aims to silence the already modest voice that federal employees have in the workplace. The result will be fewer whistleblowers coming forward to expose waste, fraud, and abuse; higher rates of employee turnover; and greater difficulty recruiting the best and the brightest. 

This is just the latest in a string of venomous proposals targeting the federal workforce: stripping VA employees of their due process rights, removing civil service protections for DoD workers, doubling the period in which new employees can be fired without cause.

As part of a systemic attack on working- and middle-class Americans, anti-union legislators have increased efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to make it as difficult as possible to join unions and to diminish basic rights and protections that all employees deserve.

AFGE will not stand for this and adamantly opposes this bill.

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