Ron Paul Would Allow ‘Open Season’ on Union Organizers

Mike Elk

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his wife, Carol, greet supporters in Ankeny, Iowa, after his third-place finish in the Iowa caucus on Tuesday, January 3.

Ron Paul’s show­ing yes­ter­day in the Iowa Cau­cus — he came in third with 21 per­cent of votes, behind Mitt Rom­ney’s and Rick San­to­rum’s 24.6 per­cent show­ings — was­n’t the vic­to­ry his pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers want­ed, but it makes him a force to be reck­oned with through­out the rest of the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry sea­son. Paul, a long­time con­gress­man from Texas, drew his sup­port from an unusu­al com­bi­na­tion of lib­er­tar­i­ans, con­ser­v­a­tives and even a few pro­gres­sives who sup­port­ed his firm stances against the wars, oppo­si­tion to the Wall Street bailout and strong sup­port for civ­il liberties. 

But what would his civ­il lib­er­ty stances mean for Amer­i­can’s work­ers? It appears Paul would actu­al­ly like to take away a key pro­tec­tion Amer­i­cans cur­rent­ly enjoy at work. He sup­ports end­ing a pro­vi­sion of the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act that makes it ille­gal for employ­ers to fire work­ers based on their sup­port of unions.

Sev­er­al times between 2001 and 2009, Ron Paul spon­sored the Truth in Employ­ment Act, leg­is­la­tion that would amend the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act to allow employ­ers to fire pro-union work­ers (some­times called salts”) who join a work­place with the intent of union­iz­ing it. Paul’s office did not return phone calls from In These Times about the can­di­date’s sup­port for this piece of legislation.

Union activists some­times get jobs with employ­ers that they wish to union­ize in hopes that their pres­ence will make the union dri­ve more suc­cess­ful. Some­time these salts” enter a work­place at the urg­ing of a union and some­times they do it inde­pen­dent­ly. The Truth in Employ­ment Act would amend the Nation­al Labor Rela­tions Act by allow­ing employ­ers to fire any work­ers that they sus­pect took a job with the intent of orga­niz­ing their workplace. 

In 2001, on the floor of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Paul said:

I rise to intro­duce the Truth in Employ­ment Act which pro­tects small busi­ness­es and inde­pen­dent-mind­ed work­ers from the destruc­tive and coer­cive top-down” orga­niz­ing tac­tic known as salt­ing. Salt­ing is a tech­nique designed by unscrupu­lous union offi­cials for the pur­pose of harass­ing small busi­ness­es until the busi­ness­es com­pel their employ­ees to pay union dues as a con­di­tion of employ­ment. Pass­ing the Truth in Employ­ment Act is a good first step toward restor­ing the con­sti­tu­tion rights of prop­er­ty and con­tract to employ­ers and employees.

UE Polit­i­cal Action Direc­tor Chris Townsend, how­ev­er, says that if passed, the Truth in Employ­ment Act would lead to open sea­son” on work­ers hop­ing to orga­nize a union.

The leg­is­la­tion would allow employ­ers to refuse to hire, or even to fire, any work­er sus­pect­ed of — or declared by the boss to be – a union sup­port­er. No work­er will be safe if employ­ers are giv­en this license to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of one’s beliefs about unions or any­thing else,” Townsend says.

While Paul claims he is for indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty, his sup­port for the Truth in Employ­ment Act shows that when its comes to the work­place, an employ­er’s lib­er­ty trumps that of a worker.

Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Work­ing In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is cur­rent­ly a labor reporter at Politico.
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