Wyden, Merkley Introduce Legislation to End Subsidies for Corporate Union Busting

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week joined with colleagues to introduce legislation that would curb corporate union-busting campaigns by denying tax breaks for attempts to dissuade employees from unionizing.

“Workers are using their power. They are securing historic victories as they unionize for better pay, better hours, and better working conditions. The wealthiest corporations in the country are pulling out all the stops in an effort to crush workers’ efforts to achieve better lives for themselves and their families. These corporations are resorting to the old union-busting playbook–anti-union trainings, advertising, and consultants. All of these union-busting activities can be written off as business expenses, so you’re getting a tax benefit for trampling on your workers’ rights. That shouldn’t happen.  Our bill is straightforward. It simply says you can’t continue to get a tax benefit for trying to crush your workers’ efforts to organize,” Wyden said.

“Workers across the nation are unionizing for better pay and working conditions, but corporations are using underhanded union-busting techniques to stop them – and they’re getting a tax break for doing so,” said Merkley. “As the son of a union machinist, I saw up close the difference a strong union can make in delivering the fair wages and strong workplace protections that every worker deserves. We need to strengthen American workers’ ability to negotiate through a union, not reward corporations trying to hold workers down.” 

As workers around the country join together to fight for better pay and safer working conditions by unionizing, they often face million-dollar corporate intimidation campaigns to prevent unionization. To add insult to injury, corporations are allowed to write off these anti-unionization efforts as run-of-the-mill business expenses.

The No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act would end the taxpayer subsidization of anti-union activity by corporations. The bill would classify businesses’ interference in worker organization campaigns like political speech under the tax code and therefore not tax deductible. Activities denied a deduction would include both unlawful attempts to influence employees, and lawful activities that nonetheless should not be subsidized by taxpayers. These include violations of the National Labor Relations Act, so-called “captive audience meetings”—where employers hold mandatory meetings during work hours and pressure employees against joining a union or interrogate workers—and million-dollar anti-union advertising campaigns around union organization elections. 

The No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act also would establish an IRS reporting requirement for employers who intervene in protected labor activities. Only a small portion of this activity is even reported to the Department of Labor currently, but it amounts to at least $340 million annually, according to a recent report.

“Workers who engage in collective action and organizing drives deserve to have the chance to make their voices heard,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “As we’ve seen a wave of union drives across the country, we’ve also witnessed a wave of companies using union busting tactics to stop their workers from organizing. We should not be subsidizing intimidation and bullying tactics, and this legislation would put an end to it. Companies that engage in union busting shouldn’t reap financial benefits, they should pay penalties for this anti-democratic behavior.”

“The No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act is part of a broader push for labor law reform that will help us begin to turn the tide on a decades-old power imbalance that has harmed workers who are simply fighting for a better life,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International President. “Working people everywhere are rediscovering the power that standing together can bring to the workplace and it’s time that our labor laws once again help build that power by favoring hard-working American families, rather than union-busting, tax-avoiding corporations.”

“For decades, employers have used their power to steamroll and silence workers organizing for a seat at the table, which has resulted in stagnating wages and skyrocketing inequality. We applaud Senators Casey, Wyden, Murray, Van Hollen and Booker for working to pass the No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act, which would end federal tax subsidies for businesses’ anti-union activities,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for corporations who attempt to impede their workers’ freedoms.”

Along with Wyden, the No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., Patty Murray, D-Wa., Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Along with Merkley, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Padilla, D-Calif., Markey, D-Mass., Baldwin, D-Wis., Warren, D-Mass., Reed, D-R.I., Brown, D-Ohio, Cardin, D-Md., Klobuchar, D-Minn., Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sanders, I-Vt., Whitehouse, D-R.I., Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Smith, D-Minn., and Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Read more about the No Tax Breaks for Union Busting Act here.

A web version of this release is here.