RAISE(ing) the Bar

Since last year’s epic showdown between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the government unions, the perverse practices and political activities of organized labor have come under even greater scrutiny. Receiving less scrutiny is how unions actually impact their workers.

To his credit, Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act (H.R. 4385) this week to address one of many overlooked economic flaws in labor law.

Currently, it is illegal for businesses to pay their employees more than their union-negotiated agreement specifies without first negotiating with the union. The result is that union employees have a salary structure negotiated by the union that serves both as a floor and a ceiling, meaning there is almost no opportunity for upward mobility. Such policy stymies incentives for workers and props up less productive workers at the expense of employees who are hardworking and productive.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has sided with the unions, claiming that bonuses constitute an illegal “direct dealing” with workers. With policies like these, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that the appeal of unions is on the decline.

The RAISE Act addresses this by introducing integral free-market concepts that allow for upward mobility and performance-based pay. This bill would NOT eliminate the floor set by collective bargaining agreements, but it would finally provide employers the opportunity to compensate their best employees with higher pay.

The RAISE Act maintains many of the provisions outlined in collective bargaining agreements, including minimum salary requirements and preventing employers from rewarding non-union employees with pay increases in order to punish unionized employees. Although they will try, opponents of this pro-worker legislation will be hard-pressed to paint it as an attack on unions.

Currently, the RAISE Act has 23 original cosponsors in the House. This is a bill that every conservative and free-market advocate should support.

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