Overreach reigning at labor department

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

By Bradley Byrne

A big problem with our country today is that the government and federal bureaucrats always seem to think they know what is best. This is flawed logic because government was created to serve the people, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, government agencies seem to forget that. This is certainly true when it comes to the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board.

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency responsible for setting policies related to labor practices and unions. The NLRB was formed in 1935, but has seen its power increase in recent years.

The Department of Labor and the NLRB exist for the purpose of protecting American workers. Unfortunately, they have abused their powers in an effort to exert more control over businesses and workers.

The Obama Administration has used the Department of Labor and the NLRB to upend decades of legal precedent by issuing aggressive decisions and regulations. Sadly, these actions have put the interests of big labor bosses ahead of what is best for hardworking Americans.

These actions are especially challenging to small and medium-sized businesses who lack the money and resources to devote to compliance with the patchwork of federal laws, regulations, policies and decisions. I hear far too often from small businesses right here in Southwest Alabama who have been negatively impacted by the Obama Administration’s labor policy.

As a member of the house education and the workforce committee, I have been working to fight back against this overreach and abuse. The committee has held numerous hearings on labor issues, including a field hearing last August in Mobile. We have also passed legislation that would block some of the most onerous proposals from moving forward, but President Obama has vetoed many of our bills.

So, we must find ways to work around the president’s veto pen. One of the most powerful tools we have in Congress is the power of the purse. Almost all federal agencies and programs require funding from Congress. If the Obama Administration isn’t following the law or is overreaching, we should cut or withhold funding to the related agency.

With this in mind, I recently sent a letter to the house appropriations committee, which is responsible for writing the annual funding bills, asking that they address four major labor issues in this year’s funding legislation. I was honored to have 72 of my Republican colleagues from every corner of the United States sign my letter to show strong support for reining in overreach by the Department of Labor and the NLRB.

That shouldn’t be where we stop though. We must continue pushing for standalone legislation to protect worker rights and ensure fairness in the workplace. I am especially proud to support the Employee Rights Act.

The Employee Rights Act would make wholesale reforms to bring our nation’s labor laws up to date. Among the many reforms, this bill would guarantee secret ballot votes on any initial decision to join a union, require unions to get positive consent from members before using union fees for political purposes, and protect employees against union intimidation or retaliation.

An appropriate union-employee relationship is critical to having a strong economy. We should always ensure that hardworking Americans and small business owners, not big union bosses, are deciding what is best for their business.

I promise you this: I will continue fighting every day against overreaches by the Obama Administration and keep working to protect American workers. That is what you elected me to do.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.