HR Policy Association

House Passes China Competition Bill With Pro-Union Labor Provisions Inserted

Several key pro-union provisions, including card check union recognition and mandatory arbitration of initial collective bargaining agreements, are attached to the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521), a bill aimed at boosting American output in the semiconductor and supply chain sectors. The bill passed the House by a vote of 222-210 (1 R voting for) and will head to a House-Senate conference committee, where such provisions could be removed before a vote in the Senate.

The America COMPETES Act is the House response to the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA) (S. 1260), both of which aim to make the United States more competitive with China in the semiconductor and supply chain industries, while also boosting grants for scientific research. However, House Democrats attached several labor provisions to the House version of the bill that would apply to employers receiving certain grants or funding under the supply chain and solar manufacturing sections of the Act, including:

  • Card check recognition: covered employers and their contractors and subcontractors would be required to recognize any union showing cards signed by a majority of employees, bypassing a secret ballot election;

  • Forced arbitration of initial bargaining agreements: if an employer and a new union are unable to come to an agreement within 120 days, both sides would be forced to let an arbitration panel set the terms of the initial collective bargaining agreement; and

  • Forced neutrality: covered employers would be required to remain neutral in any union organizing campaign during the term of the grant or funding.

Outlook: The bill will eventually go to a House-Senate conference committee which will address differences between the House version and the Senate-passed USICA, at which time the above provisions may be removed. If the provisions are left in, it is unlikely the bill will garner enough Republican votes to overcome the filibuster in the Senate. Nevertheless, the pattern of Democrats attempting to attach labor law reforms into larger pieces of legislation will likely continue, particularly as broader attempts like the PRO Act have failed to move through Congress. 

Published on: February 4, 2022

Authors: Gregory Hoff

Topics: Employment Law

Gregory Hoff

Associate Counsel, HR Policy Association

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