Union bosses are excited that they have prevented their members from getting raises.
It’s a bit mind-boggling, but that’s what happened. Last week, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) celebrated defeating a bill in the Senate that would have allowed raises, declaring that the legislation would have stripped workers’ “fundamental rights.” The union’s blog encouraged tweeting and sharing the “good news” on Facebook.
The RAISE (Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees) Act, introduced this year by Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL), would lift the ceiling on unionized workers’ wages by allowing employers to pay individual workers more—but not less—than the union contract specifies. It was defeated in a 45-54 vote along party lines.
When you’re in a union, raises are usually all or nothing. They are not necessarily forbidden; the unions just have to sign off on them. Only about 20 percent of union contracts permit performance-based raises, less than half the rate in nonunion firms. This means 80 percent of workers can’t get an individual raise for doing good work—a raise must be negotiated for everyone. That certainly takes away the incentive to go above and beyond, because there are no performance-based bonuses or even merit increases.
Instead, 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 RAISE Act, which has yet to garner a vote in the House but has been introduced there by Representative Todd Rokita (R–IN), would enable 2.8 million women and 4.8 million men to earn higher wages through their individual effort.
But union bosses don’t want that. They want to preserve the collective bargaining agreements that keep union members’ wages down.