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House Democrats Sneak Pro-Union Measure Into Anti-China Bill

Critics say amendment would leave workers vulnerable to union intimidation tactics

Joe Biden speaks at the SEIU Unions for All summit / Getty Images
• February 3, 2022 6:00 pm

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House Democrats on Tuesday tucked an amendment into a bill aimed at helping American businesses compete with China that would bolster unionization efforts at manufacturers that receive government grants.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D., Texas), would require private manufacturers to have a unionized workforce to receive grants through the America COMPETES Act. A majority of workers at each manufacturer would be required to sign on to a petition to certify unionization to be eligible. This practice—known as "card check union organizing"—forces employees to publicly declare whether or not they want to unionize. Current regulations require unions to be established through a secret ballot, giving workers protection from intimidation efforts.

Critics say the amendment undermines worker protections.

"It is unfortunate that some in Congress continue to attack the rights of workers to a secret ballot election," Vinnie Vernuccio, president of the Institute for the American Worker, told the Washington Free Beacon. "The updated version of the America COMPETES Act is just the latest in a long list of attempts to favor union organizing over what workers actually want and their privacy."

Democrats have long pushed for card checks, also referred to as "majority sign-up," because they say the process simplifies the union certification process for workers. Democrats failed during the Obama administration to establish a permanent card check through the Employee Free Choice Act. Some Democrats debated a similar push for card checks in the latest version of the PRO Act, a pro-union bill backed by the Biden administration, but decided against including the measure in the bill.

Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Labor unions and their affiliated PACs spent $70 million on backing Democrats during the 2020 election cycle—more than seven times the amount they spent on Republicans. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said card checks are intended to maximize union influence across the country.

"Once again we are reminded that the recipients of union campaign contributions will throw the rights of actual workers under the bus just to expand the power of big labor bosses," Mix told the Free Beacon.

The amendment was adopted Wednesday night and the bill is expected to pass along party lines Friday.

Published under: House Democrats, Unions