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Unions Threatened by Rubio's RAISE Act

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Unions Threatened by Rubio's RAISE ActLast month Senator Marco Rubio introduced the RAISE Act in Congress. The RAISE Act has a very simple goal: "To amend the National Labor Relations Act to permit employers to pay higher wages to their employees." You might think that this would be an easy sell. Who would 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 it undermines the fairness collective bargaining contracts bring to the workplace. We cannot allow Senator Rubio to deny unionized employees the right to raises that are granted free from discrimination, arbitrariness, and favoritism.

The RAISE act does not allow employers to lower anyone's wages, but it does allow them to pay more to individuals based on individual performance. In his defense of the RAISE Act, Senator Rubio explains how this precedent was set:

If unionized companies go ahead and pay productive workers higher wages, 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 everyone would get $18.50 an hour if they met productivity goals. The NLRB ordered the company to stop paying the raises, and the Supreme Court upheld the decision. In sum, companies were forbidden from paying more than the union rate without the union’s permission.

Even small individual bonuses are illegal. The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York gave its best nurses $100 gift cards as a token of appreciation. The NLRB ordered the hospital 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 disregard negotiated contractual agreements and to arbitrarily grant pay increases in any amount to selected employees.  This could easily result in discrimination against certain employees, including older workers and employees of color, and expand the wage disparity between men and women in the workplace.

There's not doubt that treating people as individuals comes with the potential for abuse. But those concerns should also be addressed and dealt with individually, not used as an excuse to prevent outstanding employees 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 whose power is predicated on controlling an undifferentiated mass of workers. This is a battle the forces of collectivism should lose.
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