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Northwest OH Legal Blog

Friday, February 10, 2017

Federal Assault on Worker’s Rights

            Last week Republican lawmaker in Washington D.C. introduced two different pieces of legislation aimed at weakening a union’s ability to protect its members.  The first piece of legislation seeks to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act.  The Davis-Bacon act requires contractors to pay “prevailing wage” on all federally funded public works projects.  This law insures that contractors paying a fair living wage to their employees can compete with contractors that, if allowed by law, would pay their employees a substandard wage to secure the work.  Although contractors still compete on material prices, efficiency, skill, etc., the Davis-Bacon Act insures that contractors do not engage in a wage “race to the bottom” to undercut their competition.

            The second piece of legislation introduced as the “The National Right-to-Work Act” would modify the National Labor Relations Act to repeal the so called union security agreement.  Although the bill claims that current law forces employees to join a union as a condition of employment, this is incorrect.  Under the duty of fair representation, when an employee works for an employer subject to a collective bargaining agreement that union is responsible for bargaining for the wages and other terms and conditions of employment for that employee. The Union may also have to defend this employee.  This is true whether the employee is a union member or not.  In recognition of the union’s duty to represent all employees, the NLRA currently allows unions to collect administrative dues from all employees regardless of union membership status.    This amount does not include the portion of dues used for political activity or other activity not related to employee representation.

            Unlike the mandate contained in the bill that was introduced, the NLRA has a provision that allows the individual states to elect to pass laws prohibiting unions form collecting administrative dues form non-members.  Twenty-seven states have chosen to do this.  In these states, employees still enjoy all the benefits of representation and higher wages that the union negotiates for, but they do not have to pay anything for the benefit.  This allows them to “freeload” from the unions—getting all the benefits without payment.  In turn, unions, forced by their duty of fair representation to negotiate for all employees see their ability to negotiate for any employees decreased as they have to spend the same amount of money in representation, while collecting less in dues from non-paying, non-union, employees.

            Far from only hurting just unions, these “right-to-work (for less)” laws affect all employees in the state.  For example, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in the “right-to-work (for less)” states, fewer private sector employees are offered insurance and those that are pay a higher potion of the premium.  Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports average wages in these states are 12% lower ($44,000 compared with $50,000).  Shockingly, the BLS also reports that workplace deaths in “right-to-work (for less)” states are 49% higher than other states.

            Although the benefits of the NLRA as written and the Davis-Bacon act have been reaped for 80+ years, congressional Republicans continue to try and roll back worker’s rights. We here at Allotta | Farley encourage all workers to write to their congressmen and congresswomen and urge them to oppose these bills at every step and secure the promise of worker’s right-to-work and bargain collectively for future generations. 


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With offices in Toledo and Lima, OH Allotta Farley Co., L.P.A. serves clients throughout northwest OH with various legal matters. Areas of service include Allen County, Ashland County, Auglaize County, Crawford County, Defiance County, Erie County, Fulton County, Hancock County, Hardin County, Henry County, Huron County, Lucas County, Marion County, Mercer County, Morrow County, Ottawa County, Paulding County, Putnam County, Richland County, Sandusky County, Seneca County, Van Wert County, Williams County, Wood County, Wyandot County.

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