Meat+Poultry - January 2021 - 84

LABOR

Union resurgence
" Elections have consequences " is
something Democrats and Republicans
can agree on. The Democratic party
has long relied on union financial
support and individual union
members. In exchange, Democratic
administrations tend to push measures
that benefit unions. The 2020 election
largely followed this pattern, and the
incoming Biden administration will
honor it in full.
Organized labor hopes a Biden
administration will mark the turning
point after 40+ years of declining union
membership. In the private sector, only
6.4% of workers are represented by a
union - the lowest level in 75 years.
The Biden campaign's labor plans
are replete with measures intended to
reinvigorate union organizing. The most
significant proposed legislation is the
Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO)
Act. The House of Representatives
passed the Act on Feb. 6, 2020, but it
has stalled in the Republican-controlled
Senate. One pro-union publication
described it as follows: " If passed, it
would mark the biggest change in US
labor law since Congress gave American
workers the right to unionize in 1935. "
The PRO Act's more significant changes
include reinstating the National Labor
Relations Board's (Board) " quickie "
election procedures, which reduce the

time between the filing of a petition for
an election and the date the election is
held to as little as 10 days instead of the
current 25 to 30 days. The Act would
also ban mandatory employer meetings
to discuss the effects of unionization
with employees. In an unprecedented
change, it would also subject employers
to private lawsuits and fines up to
$50,000 per violation of the National
Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It would
also ban employers from permanently
replacing strikers and permit secondary
boycotts, which have been illegal since
1947. The Act would also nullify " rightto-work " laws by permitting employers
and unions to agree to require all
workers to pay union dues. With a
Republican Senate, though, the PRO Act
stands little chance of becoming law.
On the administrative front, in
addition to a labor-friendly Secretary
of Labor, Biden will appoint the
members of the five-member Board.
Historically, the majority comprises
members who support the current
administration. Therefore, the majority
of Biden's Board will espouse pro-union
views. Additionally, Biden's 16-page
pre-election campaign statement on
labor issues includes a pledge to ensure
federal contracts go only to employers
that sign neutrality agreements with
union organizers. The plan includes
a multi-year federal contracting ban
for employers that illegally oppose
unionization. Now is the time to

consider proactive steps to prepare
for potential union organizing in your
workplace, such as sufficiently training
supervisors and managers to recognize
and respond to union organizing
and employee questions. Likewise,
ensuring employees feel appreciated
and feel they are in the information
loop about workplace matters reduces
an employer's vulnerability to union
organizing efforts. All-employee
meetings or " town halls " can aid in
this effort. Similarly, a truly effective
" Open Door " policy where there are
no repercussions for sharing concerns
reduces the likelihood that employees
will seek a union.
Biden's proposed pro-union
measures are not the only notable
workplace issues for employers.
An early effort to raise the federal
minimum wage to $15 per hour is
likely. Additionally, Biden has already
announced that OSHA will adopt a
temporary safety standard on COVID-19
and aggressively enforce compliance.
Finally, it can be anticipated that the
Department of Labor's enforcement
of legislation and regulations under
its purview, such as wage and hour
compliance, will become more
aggressive. Cautious employers
will begin a thorough review of all
compensation policies and practices to
ensure full compliance. Now is the time
to prepare to effectively respond.
R I C H A R D D. A L A N IZ | m e a t p o u l t r y @s o s l a n d.c o m

84

MEAT+ POULTRY | 01.21 | www.meatpoultry.com

elnariz - stock.adobe.com

The Biden campaign's labor plans are replete
with measures intended to reinvigorate
union organizing.


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