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(Washington, D.C) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies delivered remarks highlighting the important role unions have historically played in strengthening America’s middle class. In her remarks, Murray said that as the economy continues to grow, it is critical workers have collective bargaining rights to provide economic security, raise wages, help workers move into the middle class, and help improve workplaces and grow the economy from the middle out, not the top down. Murray called for Republicans to stop their partisan attacks on workers’ rights to organize, and work with Democrats to ensure the National Labor Relations Board can operate effectively and efficiently. 

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“I believe that real, long-term economic growth is built from the middle out, not the top down. And our government has a role to play in investing in working families, making sure they have the opportunity to work hard and succeed. But over the past few decades, working families have seen their incomes stagnate, while the cost of living, health care, and education has continued to go up. Too many families today are struggling to make ends meet on rock-bottom wages and poor working conditions.  And without collective bargaining rights, many workers have no recourse for improving their workplace.”

 

“Unfortunately, recently, my Republican colleagues have taken every opportunity they can to lob attacks on the NLRB – and by extension, attack workers who simply want a voice at the table in their workplace.  Blatant partisan attacks on the NLRB are unwarranted and unproductive.  When workers want to join a union, they aren’t looking for special treatment.  They are simply trying to exercise their basic rights.”

 

“When the NLRB examines and adapts the National Labor Relations Act to changing patterns in the labor market, or when it makes common-sense updates to union election procedures, the Board is simply carrying out its duties under the law. So I hope this hearing does not turn into another Republican attempt to attack workers’ right to organize or criticize the NLRB for carrying out its mission. I do welcome the opportunity today to hear from the NLRB about its budget request and the work the Board is doing to protect American workers and employers. I support this budget proposal to increase investments in the Board’s vital work.”

 

“This budget request would help hire a small number of additional staff to continue its important work in investigating, settling, and deciding its cases. This budget proposal will help the Board continue to resolve unfair labor practices in a timely manner. And it will help ensure employers and employees have access to a fair election process when workers want to vote on union representation. We as a nation should not turn our backs on empowering workers through collective bargaining. That’s the very thing that helped so many workers climb into the middle class. It’s no coincidence that when union membership was at its peak in the middle of the last century, America’s middle class grew strong.”

 

“In Congress, we need to continue to expand economic security for more families. That should be our mission to move our country forward. As part of that effort, we need to make sure the NLRB can work efficiently and effectively. And we need to make sure all families have the chance to share in the economic prosperity of this country, not just the wealthiest few.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to also thank our witnesses from the National Labor Relations Board for taking the time to be here today. Chairman Pearce and Mr. Griffin, your work is absolutely critical.  I appreciate your service on the Board and your tireless efforts to defend the rights of workers and employers.

 

“I believe that real, long-term economic growth is built from the middle out, not the top down. And our government has a role to play in investing in working families, making sure they have the opportunity to work hard and succeed.

 

“But over the past few decades, working families have seen their incomes stagnate, while the cost of living, health care, and education has continued to go up.

 

“Too many families today are struggling to make ends meet on rock-bottom wages and poor working conditions.  And without collective bargaining rights, many workers have no recourse for improving their workplace. 

 

“While the middle class’s share of America’s prosperity is at an all-time low, the biggest corporations have posted massive profits. That’s just not fair.

 

“I believe our government, our economy, and our workplaces should work for all families, not just the wealthiest few.

 

“In 1935, Congress understood the need to protect the rights of workers and employers and to establish the right to collectively bargain.  That’s why we have the National Labor Relations Act.

 

“Congress also understood the need for an agency dedicated to resolving disputes and preventing unfair labor practices.  That’s why we have the National Labor Relations Board.

 

“Unfortunately, recently, my Republican colleagues have taken every opportunity they can to lob attacks on the NLRB – and by extension, attack workers who simply want a voice at the table in their workplace.

 

“Blatant partisan attacks on the NLRB are unwarranted and unproductive.  When workers want to join a union, they aren’t looking for special treatment.  They are simply trying to exercise their basic rights.

 

“When the NLRB examines and adapts the National Labor Relations Act to changing patterns in the labor market, or when it makes common-sense updates to union election procedures, the Board is simply carrying out its duties under the law.

 

“So I hope this hearing does not turn into another Republican attempt to attack workers’ right to organize or criticize the NLRB for carrying out its mission. 

 

“I do welcome the opportunity today to hear from the NLRB about its budget request and the work the Board is doing to protect American workers and employers. I support this budget proposal to increase investments in the Board’s vital work.

 

“With ever-changing employment relationships across the country, the Board adjudicates complex litigation. 

 

“This budget request would help hire a small number of additional staff to continue its important work in investigating, settling, and deciding its cases. This budget proposal will help the Board continue to resolve unfair labor practices in a timely manner. And it will help ensure employers and employees have access to a fair election process when workers want to vote on union representation.

 

“We as a nation should not turn our backs on empowering workers through collective bargaining. That’s the very thing that helped so many workers climb into the middle class. It’s no coincidence that when union membership was at its peak in the middle of the last century, America’s middle class grew strong.

 

“Collective bargaining gave workers the power to increase wages.

 

“In fact, from the end of World War II through the mid-1970s, wages rose alongside the rise in American productivity.  Unions helped workers get the training they needed to build their skills so they could advance on the job.  They helped make sure men and women had safe workplaces.

 

“Union support was key to passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Since then, fatalities on the job have sharply declined. And workers have access to healthier working conditions.

 

“And through collective bargaining, access to health care rose. And that’s still true today. Workers who are a part of a union are nearly 30 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance.

 

“All of those benefits strengthened economic security for the middle class and for those working hard to get there. And more Americans were able to share in the economic prosperity they’ve earned through hard work.

 

“In Congress, we need to continue to expand economic security for more families. That should be our mission to move our country forward.

 

“As part of that effort, we need to make sure the NLRB can work efficiently and effectively. And we need to make sure all families have the chance to share in the economic prosperity of this country, not just the wealthiest few.

 

“Mr. Chairman, I look forward to this hearing as a way to examine how the NLRB is moving forward toward those goals. And I truly hope we can work together on policies that create jobs, help more workers and families, and create broad-based economic growth. 

 

“Again, I thank our witnesses for being here, and I look forward to our discussion today.”