This vote was on an amendment that would have allowed employers to give raises to unionized workers, even if the pay increases were not included in the firm’s labor contract.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered the amendment during consideration of legislation that authorizes federal programs to assist farmers and low-income Americans. Sen. Rubio’s amendment sought to give employers with unionized employees more freedom to give merit-based raises. Under the terms of Sen. Rubio’s amendment, even if not called for in a union contract, the employer would have been able to give a raise to a worker that was doing a particularly good job.
Sen. Rubio argued that it was wrong for labor union contracts to rule out raises for workers who deserve it based on merit. Allowing performance-based raises would benefit workers by giving them higher earnings and companies by encouraging more productive work that would increase profits, he argued.
“This system is unfair to workers and out of step with the modern workplace,” Sen. Rubio wrote in an op-ed in the National Review. “Employers should be able to use merit-based pay to motivate their employees. Workers want and deserve to be rewarded for their achievements. Even countries with strong union movements, like the United Kingdom, allow union members to negotiate higher wages.”
Opponents of Sen. Rubio’s amendment argued that it was an attempt to divide union workers and “a solution in search of a problem.”
“The fact is, collective bargaining agreements already provide – many of them – for merit-based performance increases. That is part and parcel of a lot of the agreements today. So what this amendment basically does is it undercuts the National Labor Relations Act,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said. “Quite frankly, I can't think of anything that would be more disruptive of a workplace than this amendment. When a business and workers have agreed on a collective bargaining agreement, this would destroy that kind of comity in the workplace.”
Sen. Rubio’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 45-54. Voting “yea” were 45 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats and 1 Republican. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to allow employers to give raises to unionized workers, even if the pay increases were not included in the firm’s labor contract.