House panel, now led by chair who questions the very value of unions, to examine pro-worker rules

WASHINGTON —The ideologically polarized House Education and the Workforce Committee – now led by an old white Southern congresswoman who questions the very value of unions – will spend much of its oversight time and effort in examining , or maybe trashing,  pro-worker rules.

That’s one conclusion to be drawn from the oversight and investigations plan the panel adopted on a party-line vote on Jan. 24. The House’s ruling Republicans mandate such a plan from every congressional committee. And they have to work quickly. House rules specify every committee must hold at least one oversight hearing every three months during this Congress.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., now runs the committee. The 73-year-old lawmaker from Watauga County, N.C., told Reuters in a telephone interview in December that unions “have lost their reason for being.” North Carolina is the 2nd-least unionized state in the U.S.

Foxx said the panel, which she took over after Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., retired, will target several pro-worker rules for repeal. They include a Labor Department rule expanding the eligibility for overtime pay and a National Labor Relations Board decision holding joint employers – think both McDonald’s headquarters and your local McDonald’s restaurant – responsible for obeying labor laws, or breaking them. The panel’s oversight agenda includes:

• “Particular scrutiny to the board’s changes to union election rules and unit determinations, decisions affecting joint-employer standards, and questions regarding whether graduate students are employees under the NLRA.

Those rules “empower union leaders at the expense of workers and members,” Foxx said when the panel adopted its oversight plan. And when the top panel Democrat, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., proposed an alternative with more oversight over the current Trump administration’s plans and policies, he lost on a party-line voice vote.

• The Labor Department’s rule, which the GOP wants to overturn, mandating that investment advisors for individuals and pension funds put their clients’ interests first. The GOP contends DOL’s rule, announced by Obama Administration Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, deprives people of “access to affordable retirement advice.”

• Yet another look at the 2014 multi-employer pension law. That measure, designed to “fix” financially failing joint employer-union pension funds in industries such as trucking, construction and food warehousing, lets trustees, with Treasury Department OK, cut payouts to current pensioners in order to keep the funds alive in the future.

The largest such troubled fund, the Teamsters Central States fund, submitted a cut plan that drew a nationwide uproar among union members. The Treasury rejected it as inadequate, but later approved a cut plan for Ironworkers Local 17 in Cleveland. Two others are pending.

The 2014 law “helped improve the financial outlook of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, but more work needs to be done,” the committee says. “The committee will continue to monitor implementation” of that law and the PBGC, “to develop needed reforms that will both protect taxpayers and workers while encouraging employer participation.”

• An investigation into how U.S. labor laws, all enacted at least 50 years ago, “affect economic growth and job creation” particularly in the so-called “sharing economy,” also known as the “gig economy.”

Source: PAI