Friday’s labor report confirms that too many hardworking Americans are unable to find the jobs they seek because U.S. job growth remains anemic, and average wages are stagnant.

Americans want to work, but they’re hampered from doing so by labor laws that do not represent their interests.

The latest labor report numbers show that 41,000 additional Americans dropped out of the work force, leading to a total of 94,062,000 Americans not participating in the labor force in January when seasonally adjusted, reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The “real” unemployment rate in January remained unchanged from December at 9.9 percent. Almost six million Americans worked part-time in January but would have accepted full-time jobs if they could have found them, according to the bureau. 

Americans want to work, but they’re hampered from doing so by labor laws that do not represent their interests and have calcified over the course of six decades

Congress needs to get serious about letting Americans get back to work, and that is why I am a proud cosponsor of legislation that brings our labor laws into the 21st century and protects the rights of  workers. 

Eighty-eight percent of union members already believe they should have the right to decide whether a union negotiates their contract, and both the Employee Rights Act and the Federal Employee Rights Act that I am cosponsoring finally allow members to do so. Workers deserve the right to decide whether they wish to be represented by a union, instead of being forced to join one because they have taken a job where one is already in place.

Both bills protect the free speech of workers and make sure they have the right to vote in private, free from unfair coercion. These bills require secret ballots in all union elections, and they prohibit union pressure tactics.

Workers should be able to decide whether a union can call a strike—a tactic that places workers and their families at risk, not the union. Currently, unions can legally force workers to accept contracts that freeze their pay and union dues without ever having a vote, reports the Journal of Labor Economics. In some states, unions can even have workers fired who don’t pay their union dues. That’s not fair to workers. Punishing union members who buck leadership should be illegal—and these bills ensure that it is. 

These bills make it illegal for union leadership to use funds for political purposes without first getting approval from a majority of union members. They also ensure that workers are given adequate time before union elections are held—particularly important in the light of a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board. 

These bills will help restore a balance of power in the workplace from unions to workers. These bills also create competition so workers get the best workplace representation and reward unions that put their members first. 

Like anyone else, union members have a constitutional right to vote, and this right should not be forced, coerced, or shortened.

For too long, our country has allowed special interests—whether they be crony capitalists, K Street lobbyists, or unions—to dictate how workers are treated. It is time to secure the rights of employees first. I support these bills because they give power back to workers—where it belongs.

 This piece has been updated by the author.