- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In the midst of a national jobs crisis, President Obama continues to insist that the answers to our economic problems are more stimulus spending and higher taxes. Meanwhile, he has turned a blind eye to the job-destroying agenda of his own National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

For months, the board charged with administering federal labor law has advanced a series of disturbing policies that hurt workers and undermine the strength of our work force. It is time for Congress to force a change of course.

On Wednesday, I introduced the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 3094). This responsible proposal restores key workplace protections to employees and business owners and demonstrates our resolve to remove obstacles to job creation.

As we’ve learned through its complaint against the Boeing Co., the NLRB’s actions can send shock waves across the country and have a chilling effect on job creators. A number of steps taken by the board this year are further proof of this troubling reality.

In August, the NLRB handed down an onslaught of decisions that restrict an employee’s right to cast a secret ballot in a union election and make it more difficult to challenge union representation.

In one case, the board made it virtually impossible for anyone to challenge what constitutes the appropriate bargaining unit. This empowers union leaders to manipulate the workplace to their own advantage, a radical shift in policy that will divide employees and raise an employer’s labor costs. Increasing the cost of doing business is a disservice to millions of Americans searching for work.

Adding insult to injury, the board is moving forward with an effort to rush union elections. Under the board’s proposal, employers will have just seven days to navigate the complexities of federal labor law before they have to present their entire case before a NLRB hearing officer. Workers may have as little as 10 days to consider the consequences of joining a union before they must cast their ballot.

It would be an understatement to say that federal labor law is complicated. An outline of union election procedures published by the NLRB includes 24 sections and more than 400 pages. It is difficult for a large business with a team of skilled attorneys to follow all the contours of labor law, let alone a small employer with limited resources.

John Carew, president of a family-owned ready-mixed concrete company, recently testified in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about his experience running a business in the midst of an organizing campaign. This small-business owner stated that the campaign consumed the bulk of his management resources and even led to a temporary shutdown of some work sites.

While Mr. Carew’s employees were able to hear from their boss, under the new regime drafted by the board, other employees may not be so fortunate. Unions already win nearly 70 percent of all organizing elections, but the NLRB is rewriting the rules of the game to favor its union allies by stifling employers’ free speech and crippling workers’ free choice.

At a time when we need growth and prosperity above all else, Congress cannot allow an unelected board to wreak havoc on the nation’s workplaces. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act is a common-sense reform that protects workers and job creators by reining in an activist labor board.

First, it ensures that employers receive the fair election hearing they deserve. While the board’s scheme severely limits employers from raising additional concerns after seven days, the legislation provides employers at least 14 days to prepare their case and an opportunity to raise additional concerns throughout the course of the election hearing.

Second, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act guarantees workers are able to make an informed decision about whether or not to join a union. No election can be held in less than 35 days, providing workers sufficient time to hear both sides of the debate. Important issues that can sway an employee’s vote will be decided before ballots are cast, and any contested issues can be appealed to the full board before the election occurs.

Finally, the legislation reinstates the traditional standard for determining which employees will vote in a union election. The legislation restores the standard developed through years of careful consideration and congressional guidance.

This proposal is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. It simply reaffirms protections workers and employers have received for decades - protections that are now under assault by an activist NLRB.

Mr. Obama has had almost three years to introduce a responsible plan to help put Americans back to work. Instead, he has called for more spending and temporary measures and has stood silent as unelected bureaucrats advance a partisan, job-destroying agenda. The president has failed to hold the NLRB accountable, but the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act ensures Congress will.

Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.