An emboldened GOP is poised to go on offense against organized labor this year.
Republicans officially gained control of the U.S. Senate, and widened its majority in the House, when lawmakers took the oath of office for a new term Tuesday. The GOP also controls an unprecedented number of state legislatures and governorships.
Here’s a look at just a few of the political battles the IAM and working families will be fighting in 2015:
1. Right-to-work (for less) laws at the state level
Lawmakers in at least nine states have signaled that they intend to introduce right-to-work legislation. The dubiously-named laws require unions to represent workers who don’t pay for their share of collective bargaining, greatly reducing the power of organized labor. Not surprisingly, research shows that workers in right-to-work states have significantly lower wages and fewer benefits. Twenty-four states already have such laws on the books, and new legislation has or will be proposed in Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
2. The biggest and worst trade deal since NAFTA
Republicans in Congress seem willing to approve Fast Track Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pending free trade agreement that threatens thousands of U.S. jobs and steals protections away from workers, consumers and the environment. The agreement is being brokered in secret by trade representatives from 12 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan and notorious human and worker’s rights violators like Vietnam and Brunei.
Fast Track Authority would limit Congress to a straight up-or-down vote on the TPP, and prohibit all members of Congress from offering amendments to protect workers. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls the TPP “a pending disaster.”
3. Attacks on new rules protecting workers
Expect congressional Republicans to go after the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) decision to modernize the union certification process. The board issued rulings cracking down on employer tactics to delay union representation election, and allowing employees to use company email addresses to discuss union organizing and other workplace issues. The rules will go into effect April 14, 2015.
A soon-to-be-enacted Labor Department regulation will require companies to disclose money spent on “union avoidance consultants.” Both agencies are likely targets for Republicans, who now control chairmanships of every committee in Congress.