Worker Centers and the Future of Union Organizing


Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing to address the future of union organizing and one particular strategy to build employee support for unionization, worker centers. Worker centers were examined by the Subcommittee members and a panel of four witnesses on Thursday as a result of recent media attention and increased scrutiny of their organizing practices. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) highlighted the uncertainty of the legal classification of worker centers, stating that they “often engage in traditional union activities, such as corporate campaigns and employee walkouts. But because they operate under the guise of nonprofits community organizations, they can avoid a range of federal standards that have long governed union conduct.”

This is the first hearing examining worker center organizing efforts, which have led to high profile protests, walkouts and marches. “It’s about time that federal officials took a hard look at Big Labor’s efforts to avoid labor organizing regulations by using worker centers to recruit new members, and attack employers,” said Worker Center Watch spokesman Ryan Williams, in a statement released by Worker Center Watch on the day of the hearing.

The ambiguity and lack of regulations governing these organizing methods, allow worker centers to employ union tactics, while operating free of the laws that regulate unions. “Worker centers are simply unions in disguise; they are front groups designed to do and go where unions are prohibited.” added Williams.

Recent proposals by the U.S. Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning micro-unions and ambush elections threaten to disrupt the traditional union organizing process, and hurt employers and employees alike by speeding up elections not allowing them to freely communicate. Increasingly, employers cannot adequately educate their workers as to the benefits and consequences of union membership because of the short timetables for elections. Employees are being hurt by gerrymandered bargaining units, union bosses who can act with impunity, and the removal of the secret ballot from the union election process.  Now that policymakers have addressed the contentious issue of worker centers, clarification as to the legality of worker centers and their actions should begin to surface.

To watch video from this hearing click here.