Extra Pay for Hard Work? Novel Concept Gets Help from Congress

Republicans have introduced a worker-rights bill that should put union advocates in Congress in a bit of a PR predicament when it gets through committee and to the floor.

Employees should be able to get merit pay if they work hard, right? The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly ruled, though, that individual bonuses constitute “direct dealing,” which is illegal under collective bargaining law.

The Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act would change all that by amending the National Labor Relations Act and letting the more than 8 million Americans currently prohibited from getting performance-based raises get their due reward.

"Who doesn't want to be giving a worker a raise?" Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the author of the RAISE Act, told PJM, noting that it's going to be "fascinating" to watch Democrats under the thumb of unions have to cast a vote for or against the bill.

So far there are no Democrats among the bill's 32 co-sponsors, but Rokita noted that he hasn't even tried to work the other side of the aisle yet on the measure introduced just last week.

He got a surefire boost for his effort yesterday, though, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill in the upper chamber with Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Vitter (R-La.) as co-sponsors.

“It is a sad day in America when no matter how hard an employee works, he or she is blocked from higher earning potential,” said Rubio. “This bill fixes this arbitrary ceiling placed on these workers and allows the free market to function as it is supposed to. These kind of actions by the NLRB are the very root of the larger issue at hand: a board of unelected government bureaucrats dictating to businesses what employees are worth.”

Rokita said the NLRB's actions have ranged from "anti-worker" to so "cross-prohibitive" that businesses can't get the job done.

And the prohibitions on merit pay? "It's corrosive to the national soul," Rokita said,

He told PJM of how he comes from a heavily unionized part of Indiana, where his father, who owned and operated a dental practice, would leave for work at 11 a.m. and not come home until the next day because of treating second-shift workers from the steel mill.

"I don't come at this from outer space," Rokita said. "I'm not one of the guys who doesn't understand the social and economic value of a union concept."

But the political machine that organized labor has evolved into, giving millions in worker dues to PACs, he said, is "not what I think the union fathers back in the day ever had in mind."

"For people who claim to speak on behalf of those who have no voice -- they are raping these workers, politically speaking," Rokita said.

So far, the response from unions to the bill has been "dead silence," Rokita said.