Non-Union Worker Organizations
Facilitate Meaningful Worker Voice and Representation
Amend the National Labor Relations Act to remove the prohibition on nonunion employer-worker collaboration and permit workers to form non-adversarial worker-management collaborative committees. Require the formation of such a committee be accompanied by the option for workers to elect one of their own to the company’s board.
American workers place enormous value on cooperative relationships with management. Poor employee-management relations harm job satisfaction even more than unpredictable scheduling or low wages. Worker voice can benefit businesses, too, through increased productivity and job satisfaction, improved information flow, and strengthened trust. But most American workers experience a “voice gap” between the influence they want to have on important workplace issues, and the influence they actually do have.
Under American labor law, the traditional “union” is the exclusive mechanism by which workers can organize and engage with management. Yet only 35% of workers not already in a union say they would vote for one and only 6% of private-sector workers are union members—lower than the share unionized prior to passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935. By 63% to 37%, workers say they would prefer a worker organization jointly run by workers and management to one run by workers alone.
The United States should open new avenues to worker voice and representation by amending NLRA section 8(a)(2) to permit the creation of non-union worker-management committees. These committees, similar to the “works councils” common in Europe, would provide a forum for cooperation on a range of workplace issues. To prevent management from controlling or manipulating such forums, workers would have to support its creation through a free and fair election and must have the power to dissolve it by withdrawing that consent. Where larger corporations form such committees, they should also be required to grant workers the power to elect one of their own to the corporate board. The TEAM Act of 2022 introduced by Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Jim Banks provides a good example of this approach.