Congressional Republicans said they are prepared to defend right to work laws if the National Labor Relations Board attempts to force non-union members to pay union fees and dues.
The NLRB announced a call for briefs last week following a regional ruling that a local AFL-CIO affiliate improperly demanded grievance fee payments from non-members.
A call for briefs is generally seen as an indication that the board, which oversees labor relations and union elections, is reconsidering standing precedent. In this case the board is examining whether exercising their rights to opt out of coercive unionism can still be made to pay labor groups.
"The [union] asks the Board to adopt a rule allowing unions to charge nonmembers a fee for grievance processing," the agency said in its call for briefs. "If such fees were held lawful in principle, what factors should the Board consider to determine whether the amount of such a fee violates [existing labor law]? What actions could a union lawfully take to ensure payment?"
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, pledged to fight for the rights of employees to resist union pressure. He said the federal agency was overreaching into the nation’s 25 right-to-work states.
"This is an ominous move and one which I will do everything in my power to stop," he said in a statement. "For nearly 70 years federal labor law has expressly given states the right to decide whether or not to have a right-to-work law."
Right-to-work laws have survived constant legal challenges. Indiana unions, for example, filed several lawsuits intended to block the implementation of the state right to work law. Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana dismissed those suits in 2013.
"None of the legal challenges launched by the union here to attack Indiana’s new Right to Work law can succeed," he ruled.
Rep. Phil Roe (R., Tenn.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, echoed Alexander’s commitment to pushing back against the agency. He said any infringement on state right-to-work laws is designed as a handout to the White House’s union allies.
"It would be outrageous for this activist NLRB to attempt to override state law—and the rights of workers to not join a union—in favor of big labor, and I would fight these attempts tooth and nail," he said.
Alexander said his home state of Tennessee has benefited from its status as a right-to-work state, as it has lured automotive manufacturing from union-dominated Michigan, which became the 24th right-to-work state in 2013.
"Over the last 30 years we have seen first-hand in Tennessee how a right-to-work environment has helped to create a competitive automobile industry and higher family incomes while union shop states saw jobs disappear as companies looked for an environment in which they could successfully make and sell cars and trucks in our country and around the world," Alexander said.
Congress has clashed with the NLRB over a number of controversial regulations from the agency.
The House and Senate passed resolutions in March clarifying the legislative intent of the law that would have prevented the NLRB from implementing new union election rules that will speed up the voting process to the detriment of employers. President Obama vetoed those resolutions on March 31.
Interested parties have until June 1 to submit briefs to the NLRB.