Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bill Would Amend NLRA to Permit Individualized Wages

Lemon Today's Daily Labor Report (subscription required) indicates that two Republicans have introduced identical bills in the Senate and House that would permit employers to pay higher wages to individual employees who work under a collective bargaining agreement.  The legislation is called the the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act.

Mmm-hmm.  I guess it never occurred to the sponsors that if some employees can get paid more, that necessarily means that some employees can get paid less.  Kind of takes the "collective" out of "collective bargaining".  But I'm guessing that's the whole point of the proposed legislation.

Hat tip:  Dennis Walsh.


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Several things I think are important:

It seems that the sponsers want to make it easier to punish union supporters.

Also, employers can already bargain to do the exact same thing. Last time I checked major league athletes are not all paid the same on some sort of lock step system.

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 10, 2009 7:17:07 AM

Fortunately, a bill like this has a snowball's chance in hell of becoming law, at least during this session of Congress. But, like Rick and Per Son, I strongly suspect that the real aim is not to pass legislation but to make an ideological swipe against unions and collective bargaining.

Posted by: Eric Fink | Jun 10, 2009 9:05:02 AM

My contract says that 'these will be minimums' when it talks about pay rates. My company could pay more, but it never will.

Posted by: John Blickenstaff | Jun 10, 2009 9:51:19 AM

It's only an ideological swipe against unions to the extent that it makes the point that paying folks primarily on the basis of seniority makes little sense in the modern economy.

Rewarding outstanding performance by individuals? Perish the thought.

Posted by: Justin Keith | Jun 10, 2009 11:56:53 AM


Employers and unions can already agree to any format of pay under the sun. So why is this law needed?

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 10, 2009 1:59:00 PM

Per Son,

This is true, but show me a union that doesn't place seniority and step raises at the top of its priority list (well, after a union security clause of course...). The fact that the best example given so far is professional sports is quite telling.

Of course, this law has little chance of passing.

Posted by: Justin Keith | Jun 10, 2009 3:40:54 PM

I understand your point Justin, but my response is "so what?" Why pick one part out of the a CBA and craft laws around it and not any others? It is because it has nothing to do with helping anyone except those who want to weaken unions.

I'll give that to employers if economic strikers cannot be permanently replaced, secondary strikes are legal, and ensure that paying employees different rates cannot be done in a discriminatory (union membership or otherwise) fashion.

Justin Keith, you seem to assume that employers always reward performance as opposed to pets and other non-merit based qualities. I just assume the opposite, and we probably both have data to prove our own respective points.

Posted by: Per Son | Jun 10, 2009 9:14:01 PM

Per Son,

I highly doubt that this Congress would pass anything that would allow employers to pay employees more for their opposition to a union. In my experience, I have proposed merit based pay or bonuses numerous times, and have encountered significant resistance from the union negotiator in every case. One union even told me that it would violate their union constitution to agree to merit based pay or bonuses.

Practically speaking, to enable merit based pay or bonuses in any case, you are going to need some objective criteria to justify that increase - and if you are going to beat back a ULP resulting from a non-union advocate's merit based increase or bonus, you are going to have to be able to point to exactly why it was merited.

The fact is, unions' opposition to merit pay and merit increases (while still having the ability to file discrimination charges based on Section 7 rights) has a lot to do with the decline of unionization. If everyone makes widgets on an assembly line, it may make sense to pay them all the same, or give raises and promotions by seniority. Where each employee has the opportunity to work hard and increase production (as in an economy with less of a focus on manufacturing), those employees usually want the ability to be compensated in accordance with their extra effort. The idea that they could work harder, but be paid less than someone who is just doing the minimum but has seniority (and be the first to be laid off) is not appetizing for many employees. Which is closer to the american ideal - working harder than the person next to you and making your fortune, or getting a raise every five years and a better shift bid after 20 years, no matter how hard you work? Both these options are extremes in most cases, but I believe this contrast illustrates one of the main reasons behind the decline of unionization.

Posted by: Tor | Jun 11, 2009 7:12:35 AM

I just can't understand why Republicans would seek to have big government infringe on the God and market-given right of companies to bargain contracts to suit their own interests.

Posted by: Jake McIntyre | Jun 11, 2009 7:34:12 AM

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