February 12, 2013

ACS Issue Brief Outlines How to Strengthen Labor Laws


 

CONTACT:
Jeremy Leaming
202-393-6181

ACS Issue Brief Outlines How to Strengthen Labor Laws

 

Washington, D.C.– A new ACS Issue Brief advances ways to strengthen labor laws in these challenging times for unions and workers. “We Are in this Together: The Rule of Law, the Commerce Clause, and the Enhancement of Liberty Through Mutual Aid” provides recommendations in a time of persistent joblessness, declining unions and limited worker protection, with workers remaining disadvantaged in their negotiations with employers.
 
The Issue Brief author, Anne Marie Lofaso, Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development and a professor at the West Virginia University College of Law, asserts that “one of the themes of the 2012 Presidential election campaign was a choice put to American citizens: Are we all in this together, or whether we are on our own?” The majority spoke; the New Deal mentality is still alive and well.     
 
Lofaso outlines numerous ways the executive branch, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Congress can strengthen traditional labor laws. She reminds readers, “It has been shown over and over again that freedom of contract is illusory for most workers.”
 
She details how the government is failing to fund the administrative agencies of the NLRB to fully enforce the National Labor Relations Act. She urges the Obama administration to consider putting “forward legislation to authorize back pay in cases where courts have refused to order such an award because those discriminated against are otherwise not entitled to it because of their undocumented status.” The Board could then potentially collect this revenue and use it for paying agency expenses.  
 
She calls on Congress “to consider legislation that will enhance workplace democracy because participating in decisions affecting employees’ working lives tends to train those employees in how to be better citizens in a democracy.” Salvaging the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Trade Workers Act (RESPECT Act), and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act would augment workplace democracy. Congress could also amend Section 8(b)(4) of the NLRA, which has “prohibited labor’s three main economic weapons – the strike, the boycott, and the picket – with regard to third-party neutrals who do business with the primary employer.”
 
Lofaso also says the changes would improve our democracy and society. “We together will continue to build this democracy; we together will make sacrifices when sacrifices must be made. And as we together build that community, each person’s individuality is enhanced, each person’s liberty is augmented, and each one of us is the better.”
 
Lofaso’s work is a part of a larger ACS project, “Toward a More Perfect Union: A Progressive Blueprint for the Second Term,” a series of ACS Issue Briefs offering ideas and proposals that we hope the administration will consider in its second term to advance a vision consistent with the progressive themes President Obama raised in his second Inaugural Address. The series should also be useful for those in and outside the ACS network – to help inform and spark discussion and debate on an array of pressing public policy concerns. The series covers a wide range of issue areas, including immigration reform, campaign finance, climate change, criminal justice reform and judicial nominations.
 
Read the full Issue Brief here. To speak with the author, contact Jeremy Leaming at jleaming@acslaw.org or (202) 393-6181.
 
The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit www.acslaw.org.