Removing Union Pay Ceilings
James Sherk / Ashley Shelton /
Union contracts do not just set the minimum compensation that workers can earn; they also set maximum wages.
Employers may not pay employees more than their union has negotiated. Unions typically base pay on seniority and job classifications—not individual effort or productivity. Workers cannot bargain individually for more. By law, hard-working union members get the same pay as those who slack off.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) strikes down attempts to raise wages without union permission. The Brooklyn Hospital Center rewarded its best nurses with $100 gift cards. The NLRB told the hospital to cease and desist. The Register Guard Publishing Company gave a bonus commission to employees who sold advertising contracts that the company wanted to promote. The NLRB also ordered them to stop.
Union contracts should not prevent workers from earning raises. The Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act corrects this problem. It amends the National Labor Relations Act to eliminate the wage ceiling. The RAISE Act allows employers to pay deserving employees higher wages for their work without facing unfair labor practice complaints. The Senate may vote on the RAISE Act as an amendment to the farm bill.
The RAISE Act would benefit employers and employees by allowing companies to offer performance pay to reward productivity. Unsurprisingly, employees work harder when their employers reward their hard work. Research shows that the average worker’s earnings rise 6–10 percent when they can get performance pay. Companies pay these higher wages out of the higher revenue their productivity generates. Both sides win.
Forbidding employers from paying individual union members higher wages makes no sense in today’s economy. Workers want their achievements recognized, and employers want to reward productivity. The RAISE Act lifts the seniority ceiling and allows union members to get ahead. Why should unions have the power to turn down a raise on a worker’s behalf?