Raleigh, N.C. — The Democratic National Committee came under fire Wednesday from Republican lawmakers trying to strengthen North Carolina's status as a right-to-work state.
House Bill 872 would void any contracts that require the use of union labor.
Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, questioned the need for the measure, noting that the National Labor Relations Act already precludes such contracts. Because federal law trumps a state law on the matter, the bill would be unenforceable, he said.
"I think, as a body, we need to be careful about passing unenforceable laws," Hall said.
Legislative staffers said it was unclear whether the NLRA covers every type of contract, but Mike Okun of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO agreed with Hall that the federal law would preempt any state regulations.
"No employee can be discriminated against on hire because they are or they're not a member of the union," Okun said. "In fact, no one must join the union at any time in any state."
North Carolina's right-to-work status guarantees that workers in any business represented by a union can receive the benefits of a union contract without having to pay union dues, he said.
Rep. William Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, suggested that the DNC violated federal labor laws by demanding that union labor be used for printing materials for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last fall. He said that blocked non-union print shops in the Charlotte area from bidding on a lucrative contract.
Okun said pursuing a union contractor doesn't violate the NLRA. A violation would occur only if the contractor prohibited non-union workers from working on the contract.
"A businessman who is not a union shop (is) forbidden from bidding contracts," Brawley responded. "I believe that violates the idea of a right-to-work state."
He said he backed a resolution last year asking the DNC to use as many North Carolina-based contractors as possible for the convention, but 69 percent of the contracts went to out-of-state firms because of the preference for union contractors.
Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell, said it doesn't make sense to say a contract requiring union shops doesn't discriminate against anyone, and Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, said the AFL-CIO would likely "be howling" if the DNC mandated non-union shops be used for the convention.
William Brawley said the legislation simply states that no one could enforce any labor contract in North Carolina that requires union labor.
"It doesn't mean that have to not hire union. It means you don't get to tell them what to do," he said.
The House Commerce Committee passed the bill by a 30-17 vote, and it next heads to the House floor.