- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

As Big Labor bosses scream bloody murder about decisions by Bush administration appointees on labor law issues, they are actually breathing a collective sigh of relief this Labor Day. Despite a few minor rulings reining in union abuse, union officials are still winning their war against employee free choice.

By way of background, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the federal agency charged with administering the National Labor Relations Act, a law that grants union officials sweeping privileges to organize workers into union collectives.

But the Bush NLRB has been AWOL since the beginning. Despite more than five years of Republican rule, dozens of precedent-setting Clinton NLRB rulings remain unchanged. These activist decisions strengthened union coercive power over employees and employers alike, entrenched unions in workplaces where they do not enjoy the support of a majority of employees, and allowed for the rampant misuse of forced union dues for politics.

In short, although a Democratic majority on the NLRB is naturally expected to favor the interests of union officials over rank-and-file employees, the Clinton board turned American labor law on its head. According to an analysis by Jones Day attorney G. Roger King prepared for the American Bar Association, from 1994 to 2001 the Clinton NLRB overturned 60 long-standing cases — throwing a jaw-dropping 1,181 years of combined precedent out the window.

In spite of this, President Bush’s appointees have yet to right the ship, reversing fewer than eight Clinton NLRB precedents.

And the Bush board’s dereliction of duty has reached ridiculous levels. In one long-pending case, employees are pleading for the board’s protection from union coercion 17 years after initiating their charges.

Raising questions of gross negligence and bureaucratic deadlock, the NLRB has failed to issue a final ruling in the case of David and Sherry Pirlott — initiated in 1989 — with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation against the Teamsters Local 75 union in Green Bay, Wisc. The Pirlotts’ complaint is the oldest of scores of cases in which foundation-assisted employees are trying to reclaim their forced union dues illegally spent on non-bargaining activities like union political efforts.

Since the Pirlotts filed their original charge, the Berlin Wall fell, the American public voted in four presidential elections, and six new justices have been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice delayed is justice denied.

The NLRB, which has long been plagued by political in-fighting and institutional bias favoring forced unionism, is also drawing similar scrutiny for failing to rule on other foundation-assisted cases that challenge Big Labor’s most abusive new organizing tactics.

Because employees increasingly vote down unionization, Big Labor has turned to imposing unions on employees from the top down. The goal is to sabotage employers until businesses agree to waive the secret ballot election process for unionization.

In the leading cases at issue, officials at Dana and Metaldyne — automotive suppliers to the Big Three — promised to grant sweeping access to employees’ personal information so union operatives could make menacing home visits to browbeat workers into signing cards which are later counted as “votes” in favor of unionization. In exchange, United Auto Workers (UAW) bosses said they would not lobby for new employee health benefits in future negotiations for Dana employees. Essentially, everybody won — everybody except the rank-and-file workers, that is.

Despite the ongoing suffering workers endure under these coercive unionization drives, the NLRB has let cutting-edge employee legal challenges to this abuse sit on its docket for over two years.

Meanwhile, the president continues to stumble on his nomination strategy. In August, Mr. Bush re-nominated Democrat Wilma B. Liebman for a third term at the NLRB and cut a deal to confirm her through the Senate. The deal pointedly hung one of Mr. Bush’s own Republican NLRB nominees, Peter Kirsanow, out to dry.

Ms. Liebman’s bias in favor of union bosses is notorious. Before joining the agency where she has accumulated an outrageous record of defending the most abusive of union actions, she was counsel for the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the infamous Teamsters union.

As the NLRB fails to tackle the most pressing and long-languishing cases of employee rights violations, workers face further erosion of their freedom to choose whether to unionize.

So the public shouldn’t be fooled by union officials’ woe-is-me complaints about actions by the Bush NLRB on this Labor Day. Instead, they should be wondering why the board is ignoring American workers’ struggle to free themselves from forced unionism.

Stefan Gleason is vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

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