After Senate Vote, RAISE Act Gets House Hearing
It’s reassuring to see good ideas moving through the legislative process in Washington, even in the midst of a presidential election year.
On Wednesday, the House’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing to examine proposals to strengthen the National Labor Relations Act. The list of proposals includes the Secret Ballot Protection Act, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2011, and the Heritage-inspired Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act. (watch live at 10 am edt)
In 2009, The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk described a mostly unknown problem facing many union workers:
Most collective bargaining agreements (CBA) specify seniority-based promotions and raises that ignore individual effort. Federal law prohibits employers from paying individual workers more than their union contracts provide. This restriction holds high-performing employees back. No matter how hard they work, union members cannot earn more than their unions have negotiated for them.
Sherk then went on to describe a solution, which a few months later would become the RAISE Act. What would the RAISE Act do?
[It] would lift the “seniority ceiling” on workers’ wages by allowing employers to pay individual workers more–but not less–than the union contract specifies. By offering workers the opportunity to earn higher wages, the RAISE Act provides an incentive for increased productivity. … RAISE restores union members’ freedom to earn individual raises through their own efforts–a freedom that federal labor law currently denies. With many American families struggling to get ahead financially in the recession, Congress should lift the seniority ceiling on workers’ wages. (emphasis added)
In April, Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced the RAISE Act (H.R.4385), and Heritage Action announced it would key vote co-sponsorship of the bill because it would allow “exceptional employees to be compensated as such.”
The RAISE Act is necessary because current federal law caps the wages of over 8 million union workers, meaning exceptional workers are not necessarily compensated as such. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has voided bonuses paid to hardworking union employees because, in their terminology, it constituted a “direct dealing” between the employee and the employer, thus bypassing the union.
All of this is because federal law treats unions as the exclusive bargaining representative of union workers. Individual work goes unrewarded. In fact, it is against the law for employers to pay productive workers more than provided for by the union contract without first negotiating with the union.
Earlier this year in the Senate, 45 Senators (every Republican except Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski) voted to change federal law and allow employers to reward truly deserving employees. Prior to this hearing, 81 Representatives (all Republicans) have cosponsored the bill, which Sherk estimates would increase the “average union member’s salary” by $2,700 to $4,500 a year.