Recommendations for Labor Law Reform That Enhances Workers' Freedom and Protects Their Rights

With the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935, Congress conferred on labor unions the power to "organize" workers by whatever means the unions chose—including coercion—and to impose on employers the risk of penalties if they questioned or opposed union demands. Since that time, the abuses of some elements of the organized labor movement have twice led Congress, in 1947 and 1959, to amend the law to impose restraints on some of the more flagrant union abuses.

Notwithstanding Congress's legislative efforts to curb union abuses, the NLRB in many respects has evaded or distorted the clear intent of these amendments. The NLRB has in essence kept national labor relations policy far closer to the heavily union-favoring act of 1935 than Congress intended and that the growth of union political power indicates is wise.

It is past time for national and state policy makers to again consider labor law reform. For too long, the assumption has been that what is good for labor unions is therefore in the best interest of employees. But good labor policy should not reflect this one-sided intent. Rather, any reform undertaken should act toward the dual purpose of restoring balance to labor-management relations and protecting workers from abuse by both unions and employers.

Effective labor law reform must protect the "free choice" rights of employees to select a bargaining agent or to reject a union. The purpose of any meaningful reform legislation should be to reaffirm the NLRA's guarantee to employees of their basic rights, which are often neglected during the collective bargaining process. For example, employees' basic right to refrain from collective bargaining is often disregarded by labor unions, who cite as justification the 1935 preamble to the NLRA that declares official U. S. public policy to be the use of collective bargaining as a means of reducing industrial strife.

Labor law reform must instead stress the importance of maintaining a balance between labor union bargaining power and employees' right of free choice to refrain from collective bargaining if they so choose. Business, unions, and workers themselves should each enjoy equal rights and responsibilities under the law.

Although the long-term goal should be to restore a government-neutral, free market in labor representation, the details of such a proposal are beyond the scope of this report. Outlined below, then, are several recommendations for reform that will go far to accomplish the stated purpose of the NLRA to promote industrial peace and to promote the output of goods and services for the benefit of all people.