Workers deserve to hear all sides of a story
Employers who care about their employees’ best interests should not agree to deprive workers of information about unionization. Neither should state lawmakers or the federal government.
The Biden Administration, however, appears to be warm to such deprivation. Through various contract provisions and federal funding decisions, it appears to be seeking to force employers who contract with the government into accepting neutrality agreements. Washington state representatives should intervene as they can and stand up for workers’ rights. State lawmakers should also champion the free-speech rights of employers and workers’ rights to information on the state level.
What is a neutrality agreement?
Neutrality agreements are contracts that require employers to stay silent in union organization efforts. They mean that employers can’t freely offer knowledge of workplace realities, counter misleading information given by an outside organization or give workers “cons” to a union’s “pros.” Long-sought by unions, neutrality agreements allow unions to give workers the information of their choosing while gagging employers.
Requiring employers to remain silent during unionization efforts can leave workers with a one-sided argument — the union’s side. Long-standing precedent in which the judicial and legislative branches of government have defended worker rights would send the Biden Administration to detention for trying to deprive workers of their right to information.
Knowledge is power
Workers deserve all the information they can get from as many sources as possible. It also makes sense that many workers would want to hear insight from a trusted employer (or even an untrusted one) who knows their job, who gives them a livelihood and who has a vested interest in the worker’s success. Zipping the lips of employers doesn’t just limit them unfairly, it limits their employees.
Neutrality agreements also treat workers as if they’re stupid. Workers can hear two or more sides of an argument and come to their own decisions about what is best for them.
A recent whitepaper by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace talks about neutrality agreements and other controversial tactics that unions are deploying to organize workplaces across the nation. It highlights how neutrality agreements are often tied to “card check” campaigns that deny workers a secret ballot election regarding unionization. Without secret ballot elections, workers have to publicly declare their preferences. That can put them in an awkward position at best and make them vulnerable to coercion, deception and mistreatment at worst.
Biden has said, “You know, you’ve heard me say many times: I intend to be the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” He’s making good on that promise at workers’ expense. It is incumbent upon Washington state’s federal delegation to step up and defend workers against forced neutrality agreements and against a pro-union administration that doesn’t have their backs.