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House panel approves bill requiring parental consent for minors to join unions

A bill that would require parental consent for minors to join a labor union could be headed to the full Texas House.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, visits in the House chamber with state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, on April 25, 2017. Nelson is co-chair of the conference committee working out the details of Senate Bill 1, the state budget. 

*Correction appended

A bill that would require parental consent for minors to join a labor union could be headed to the full Texas House. 

The House Economic and Small Business Development Committee on Monday approved Senate Bill 75 along a party-line vote, with one of the committee’s four Democrats, state Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, absent for the vote.

SB 75 was voted out of the Senate in April — also on a party-line vote — with the bill’s author, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, dubbing the proposal a “parental consent bill” that sought to preserve “the rights of parents to see economic decisions.”

State Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, carried the measure in the House, which was considered during a committee hearing last month. Both Nelson and Parker said they filed the legislation after a constituent they shared said his daughter joined a labor union without fully understanding the terms of what she was signing.

Those opposed to SB 75 argue that if someone in Texas is old enough to work, they should be able to decide on their own whether to join a union. Others, such as Anthony Elmo, communications and political director for a local United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000, say the bill targets minors working in grocery stores, unfairly hindering their freedom and opportunity in the workplace.

“We’re disappointed that politicians who don’t understand anything about labor unions would pass this legislation,” Elmo told the Tribune in a text message after the vote Monday. “Our young members deserve the right to choose their own pathway of economic opportunity.” 

Between 1,500 and 2,000 minors in the state belong to local chapters of UFCW, a private-sector union representing grocery baggers and clerks in Texas, according to Elmo. 

Texas is a “right-to-work” state, which means employees are not required to pay union dues or join a labor union. And minors can secure most jobs without parental consent — with a few exceptions such as acting in movies and plays or selling goods and services — under current state law

SB 75 now heads to the Calendars Committee, where it could be scheduled for a vote on the House floor but it must happen before Sunday, the last day the Calendars Committee can place senate bills on the lower chamber’s calendar for consideration. 

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A House committee considered a proposal that would require parental consent for minors to join a labor union in April.
  • Minors in the state may be required to obtain parental approval before they can join a labor union under a proposal the Texas Senate approved along party lines in April.
  • The Texas Senate approved a measure that would end the state’s practice of collecting public employee membership dues for certain labor unions and other associations through payroll organizations in March. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the membership of UFCW in Texas. Between 1,500 and 2,000 minors belong to the union statewide, not a single chapter.

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State government 85th Legislative Session Texas Legislature