Reconciliation bill would increase fines for labor-law violations

Reconciliation bill would increase fines for labor-law violations
The western front of the United States Capitol. The Neoclassical style building is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Public domain image.

By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Labor leaders are pressing for a deal on the Build Back Better reconciliation package, because it increases penalties on companies that violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The new bill would impose civil fines of $50,000 to $100,000 per violation.

Dan Mauer, director of government affairs for the Communication Workers of America, said companies will keep flouting the rules until they have a financial incentive to comply.

“If we want to rebuild the labor movement and, in turn, rebuild the middle class, we’ve got to make sure those issues get corrected,” Mauer asserted.

Labor groups were only able to get a few of their priorities into the reconciliation bill.

The rest are in the PRO Act, which passed the U.S. House this spring but has been blocked by Republicans in the Senate, who argued the changes are too onerous for companies, especially those struggling to recover after the pandemic.

The PRO Act would expand the NLRA, so companies would be in violation if they retaliate against workers trying to organize a union, require workers to attend so-called “captive audience” meetings, or permanently replace workers who go on strike.

Carla Campos-Ortiz, a member of CWA Local 9413 in Sparks, said state labor protections are very weak and leave workers to fend for themselves.

“Especially in Nevada, we’re a right-to-work state,” Campos-Ortiz pointed out. “A lot of these people get fired, and they don’t have a choice. They have no way to fight for their jobs to avoid getting laid off.”

The PRO Act would also ban the practice of locking out employees prior to a strike, or misclassifying certain workers as “non-employees.”