Hatch, Scott seek secret ballots on union decisions, limits on union political spending

Scott, who announced his bill Thursday, said the bill is a reaction to "overreach" by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

"We have seen in my home state of South Carolina exactly what happens when the federal government, and specifically the NLRB, overreaches their authority in an attempt to protect Big Labor," Scott said. "All workers should feel safe and free from harassment in their workplace, and all workers should be able to ensure their voice is heard without fear of retribution."

The bill, S. 1507 in the Senate, would require all unionization decisions to be made by secret ballot, and said decisions by some employers not to demand a secret ballot disempowers those workers who want a secret ballot vote.

Once unionized, secret ballot votes would be required every three years under the bill. Hatch said disbanding a union is a "nearly impossible task," and that many workers are in unions because joining was a condition of being hired.

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 10 percent of current union members voted for the union at their workplace," he said. "Most union members simply took jobs at sites that were already unionized, many of which require union membership as a condition of employment."

The AFL-CIO reacted to the bill Thursday by arguing that many of the premises in the bill are incorrect. For example, the group argued that union membership is never required as a condition of employment. The group also argues that requiring on-site elections at workplaces every three years would be a huge expense for the NLRB.

"This bill shows that a political agenda is more important than one that fixes actual problems," said AFL-CIO Spokesman Josh Goldstein. "Working people are desperate for jobs, not legislation that seeks to destroy or diminish the ones they have.”

While Hatch said the bill is pro-worker, he acknowledged that he expects opposition from Democrats in large part because of language saying union dues cannot be used for political contributions without a member's written consent.

"Exit polls have shown that America's union members are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, yet more than 90 percent of union political contributions go to Democrats," he said. "For too long, American workers have been treated by union leaders as little more than human ATMs."

On this issue, the AFL-CIO said employees can already opt out of paying the portion of their union dues that are spent on political advocacy.

The measure would also shut down efforts by the National Labor Relations Board to shorten the time period between filing a union petition and an election. Hatch said a proposed NLRB regulation might allow elections within seven days of filing a petition, instead of the 39-day average.

-- This story was updated at 1:01 p.m. to add comments from Rep. Scott and reaction from AFL-CIO, and again at 1:51 p.m.