House Democrats Unveil Legislation to Protect American Workers Against Anti-Competitive Employment Practices

April 26, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Antitrust Caucus Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI),  and Co-Chair of the Antitrust Caucus Mark Pocan (D-WI) unveiled a legislative package to protect hardworking Americans against anti-competitive employment practices that severely impact workers’ rights.

“Non-compete agreements hold American workers hostage,” said Congresswoman Sánchez (D-CA), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “For years, many workers have been forced into signing non-compete agreements, depressing their wages and their ability to advance in their careers. I thank Chairman Crowley for his leadership on this legislation to help working families get ahead. If we believe in a competitive economy, then we must ensure the same for our workers. We’ve got to give them the flexibility and opportunity to thrive, get ahead, and do what’s best for their families. I’m proud to join my colleagues today to tamp down on this troubling practice. Our working families deserve better.”

“Over the past several decades, waves of consolidation throughout the economy have imperiled the financial security of American workers. As a result, employers have immense power to restrict the wages and mobility of workers, and to justify anticompetitive mergers under the guise of corporate restructuring—which we all know means layoffs and unemployment,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this package of bold legislation to protect the economic opportunity and freedom of working Americans through the full benefits of competition. In particular, the Restoring and Improving Merger Enforcement Act, which I am introducing, would prohibit the consideration of spurious economic efficiencies—like corporate layoffs—to justify anticompetitive mergers. This package of bills is critical to addressing the scourge of anticompetitive behavior in labor markets—such as the widespread use of non-compete and no-poach agreements—preventing employers from redistributing American workers’ salaries into corporate profits."

“Workers must be able to leverage their talent and experience to secure better pay and opportunities without fear of repercussions. Any attempt to systematically undermine that effort stands in stark contrast to our values,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY). “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to remove the unnecessary hurdles workers face as they seek better opportunities for them and their families.”

“For too long, corporations have used anticompetitive practices, like non-competes and no-poach agreements, to trap workers in low-paying jobs and prevent opportunities for advancement,” said Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Antitrust Caucus. “It’s time to put a stop to this collusion and I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing legislation that will do just that.”

“Unbridled consolidation throughout the economy is fundamentally threatening the financial security and well-being of working Americans,” said Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. “Economic power and opportunity are becoming concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. That’s because employers with the power to dictate wages—also called monopsony power—have imperiled the economic liberty, financial security, and dignity of hardworking Americans. I am introducing the Economic Freedom and Financial Security for Working People Act to reverse this trend by prohibiting anticompetitive corporate mergers that would give employers the ability to dictate wages, benefits, and other workplace conditions. This legislation would give antitrust enforcers the clear authority to safeguard the economic security and freedom of working Americans by prohibiting mergers that will result in employers and other firms having monopsony power.

“Forcing workers to sign non-compete agreements runs counter to the American idea that employees should have the opportunity to decide what job is best for them and their families. The Workforce Mobility Act would not only ban non-compete agreements, but also ensure that employees who are forced to sign them can seek recourse through the court system,” said Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), Co-Chair of the Antitrust Caucus. “As the co-sponsor of this legislation, I’m proud to stand with House Democrats and fight to end anti-competitive hiring practices that are suppressing workers’ rights and their wages. And while Republicans are pushing a corporate driven agenda that’s wrong for the American people, Democrats are focused on putting workers, not corporations, first.”

The following bills were introduced as part of this legislative package:

  • The Workforce Mobility Act: Introduced by Chairman Crowley, and Reps. Sánchez, Pocan, and Ellison, this bill bans non-compete agreements in the workplace by establishing that these contracts violate antitrust laws and by providing employees with a private right of action if they are illegally forced to sign a non-compete agreement.
  • The Restoring and Improving Merger Enforcement Act: Introduced by Rep. Nadler, this bill would prohibit the consideration of spurious economic efficiencies—like corporate layoffs—to justify anticompetitive mergers.
  • The End Employer Collusion Act: Introduced by Rep. Ellison, this bill bans agreements employers make with each other promising not to “poach” each other’s workers. These collusive, no-poach agreements drive down wages and prevent workers from moving to better job opportunities. 
  • The Economic Freedom and Financial Security for Working People Act of 2018: Introduced by Rep. Cicilline, prohibits anticompetitive corporate mergers that would give employers the ability to dictate the wages, benefits, and workplace conditions of hardworking Americans.

This legislative package builds on efforts under the Obama administration to combat anti-competitive practices in the workplace, and it is supported by the American Federation of Labor, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the National Employment Law Project, Open Markets Institute, the American Antitrust Institute, and Public Citizen.

"This package of bills protects the political and economic liberty of every person in America who works for a living. We the people organized our government to protect us from domination by the powerful,” said Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of the Open Markets Institute. “Today, such domination and bullying is all too common, whether through absurd non-compete contract that restrict where we can work or secret collusion by employers to suppress our wages. Every person who works, from those who toil in restaurants to nurses to top scientists and engineers, must be free from coercion by bosses."

“In an age of overwhelming corporate concentration, we need Congress more than ever to act by passing laws that clearly state that the main purpose of competition laws is to protect consumers and workers. And we need to give enforcers the tools and authority to scrutinize mergers that have the potential to raise prices and drive competitors out of the marketplace,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “The series of bills that were introduced today are a step in the right direction in placing consumers and workers ahead of protecting corporate profits at all costs.”

“As a coalition of unions representing more than four million professional and technical employees, DPE urges passage of the Workforce Mobility Act to ensure balance and fairness for everyone in our labor market,” said Paul E. Almeida, President of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE). “Professionals invest a significant amount of time and financial resources to develop their skills and expertise. Restraining professionals from advancing their careers by pursuing new employment opportunities runs counter to American values and harms the U.S. economy.”