by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Labor proponents are cheering a provision in the Democratic climate and social spending legislation that would impose fines against employers for violating labor laws.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which recently passed the House, is a massive and multifaceted bill, but one aspect that has captured the attention of unions and supporters of organized labor is a section that applies hefty civil penalties to employers who violate the National Labor Relations Act.
The legislation says that employers who commit unfair labor practices can be fined up to $50,000 for each violation. Fines could soar as high as $100,000 for repeat violations of the NLRA.
Currently, if an employee files an unfair labor charge against an employer, the National Labor Relations Board investigates the case during a multiweek process, although, according to the NLRB, most charges are settled by the parties, withdrawn by the charging party, or dismissed. If evidence is found to support the charge, efforts are made to come to a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, the NLRB seeks make-whole remedies, such as reinstating a worker with back pay, but can’t levy fines.
Dan Meyer, managing partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Washington, D.C., office, explained to the Washington Examiner that the new provision is just one slice of the Democratic labor agenda — specifically, a piece from pending legislation called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act.
The PRO Act would make sweeping changes to the labor landscape in the United States and would essentially end right-to-work laws that have been enacted in 27 different states. The laws stop unions from requiring that employees pay dues or fees. The bill, though, has been stalled.
While the current spending bill only contains one major plank of the PRO Act, it still would mark a big change in U.S. labor law.