By: Chris Ferrari, Publisher
When Donald Trump ran for President in 2016, unions — especially the building trades — worked hard to stop him from winning. Despite the message they sent to their memberships that a Trump administration, putting Republican lawmakers in control, would be bad for labor, many union members broke ranks and voted for Trump.
Some union officials estimate that 20 percent of their members supported Trump. Union leaders tried to convince union workers that nothing is more important than the paychecks and benefits that the American labor movement has worked so long to secure and protect.
The message fell on deaf ears, and we are now in the first 100 days of the Trump administration with Republicans holding both houses. For labor, after being invited to the White House for a meeting with the President in what was believed to be a good first step, there has been a steady and consistent attack on unions.
It is one thing to introduce legislation that is anti-labor, but what the new administration is doing is exercising their rights under an not-so-well-known law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
What CRA does in part is to allow Congress to review, by means of expedited legislative process, new Federal regulations and overrule those regulations. Congress must act within 60 legislative days of the regulation to review and recall it to be able to exercise CRA. Otherwise, it becomes law.
This has emerged now because President Obama’s administration passed legislation in its final days that would protect workers and labor in general. Republicans now are able to review and repeal those regulations without any opposition. The first thing they have targeted is pro-labor legislation.
In the first use of the CRA, the House voted to repeal the Obama “Blacklisting” rule. The House voted 236-187 for a resolution under the CRA that would block a rule that requires companies to report any labor law violation or alleged violation they’ve had in the last three years when bidding on federal contracts over $500,000.
As a result of this action, non-union contractors with poor safety performance records are now free to bid on publicly financed jobs. Unions that have a very long history of training for safety are now at a disadvantage with companies who do not put equal emphasis on this area.
In the second anti-union use of CRA, two Republican congressmen have introduced resolutions to block an Obama administration regulation that allowed state-administered IRA plans to avoid coverage under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Under the state-run safe harbor, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was amended to allow states to mandate the automatic enrollment of qualified employees in a state-administered IRA, so long as the workers are able to opt-out after being automatically enrolled.
With this being repealed, employers are no longer held to a standard that enables employees to have a better avenue to save for retirement.
In addition to the CRA initiatives, two lawmakers have introduced additional anti-union laws that are expected to pass the Republican controlled House and Senate.
Representative Steve King (R) IA-4th and Jeff Flake R-AZ are leading the charge with the following bills:
H.R. 785 is a National Right To Work Act that was introduced on 2-1-17 and currently has 22 co-sponsors. Currently, it has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
H.R. 743 is a Davis-Bacon Repeal Act introduced on 1-30-17 and has nine co-sponsors. It currently is also sitting with the House Education and Workforce Committee.
S- 195 is the TIRE Act and calls for a Davis-Bacon repeal on Infrastructure projects. There are no current co-sponsors on this bill, and on 1-24-17, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
S- 622 is the Fair and Open Competition Act which, in essence, calls for the abolishment of Project Labor Agreements (PLA) on Federally funded projects. The bill was referred on 3-14-17 to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
With this assault on protective labor legislation, Representative Donald Norcross (D) NJ-1st., the only member of Congress who is an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW-351) member, has vowed to fight against these unsafe legislative actions that are harmful to unions, and ultimately to the general public.
Norcross, who leads a bi-partisan Building Trades Caucus, is working across party lines to keep the Trump administration focused on rebuilding our infrastructure and growing jobs for America’s families.
While some extremists in Congress are trying to roll back workers’ rights, hide labor violations, and keep wages down, Norcross is standing up for workers by leading the the Building Trades Caucus. Norcross led a group of Republicans and Democrats petitioning President Trump to develop a plan to strengthen America’s infrastructure, and have highlighted specific best practices with full bipartisan support.