Price’s Cabinet nomination complicates GOP labor reform – Washington Examiner (blog)

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Rep. Tom Price for several years was the main House sponsor of the Employee Rights Act, the GOP’s main effort to rein in union power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rep. Tom Price’s nomination to be the next secretary of health and human services has thrown a monkey wrench into Republican efforts to pass a major reform of federal labor laws.

The Georgia Republican for several years was the main House sponsor of the Employee Rights Act, the GOP’s main effort to rein in union power. Assuming he gets confirmed by the Senate and becomes part of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet, it is not clear who will take over from him as the House point man.

Others involved in pushing the legislation, both lobbyists and on Capitol Hill, say they don’t know who will pick up the ball in the House. They expressed little concern, however, noting that proposals in previous Congresses got numerous co-sponsors. A version Price introduced in 2015 had 137 co-sponsors.

“Somebody will step up. I’m certain of that,” said Richard Berman, who heads the Center for Union Facts and supports the legislation. He said he was aware of a few lawmakers who had expressed interest but declined to give names.

A Senate source involved in the legislation who requested anonymity said they hadn’t heard “anything definitive” on who would introduce it on the House side.

Price’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The legislation would prohibit a union from using a worker’s membership dues for any purpose other than collective bargaining without getting that worker’s prior written consent. It makes threats of force against a worker a federal crime. The bill also includes several changes to workplace election rules, such as requiring all elections have secret ballots and that a union win a majority of all workers, not just a majority of those who voted.

It also would reverse a 2014 rulemaking by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces labor laws, that shortened the time from when a union election is held to as little as 11 days from the initial announcement. Republicans have called the decision the “ambush election rule,” saying it was intended to ensure that the vote happens before workers hear all the pro and cons of joining a union.

Republicans such as Price have been pushing the legislation for years, but with President Obama certain to veto it, GOP leaders put little effort behind it. Versions introduced in the last Congress were never voted on.

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That may change now that a Republican administration is taking over, although it is not clear where Trump stands on the issue. His team declined to respond to inquiries during the campaign on whether he would support the legislation. However, should Price become HHS secretary, the administration would have at least one major voice supporting the legislation.

Trump’s nominee to be labor secretary, fast food magnate Andrew Puzder, has been a major critic of federal regulations related to labor, such as the Obama administration’s efforts to expand overtime rules. It is not clear where he would stand on the Employee Rights Act.

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