Even as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is pilloried by the editorial pages of mainstream newspapers from coast to coast for its ridiculous efforts to tell Boeing how - and where - to create jobs, the captured agency is already warning of its next target: the 6 million businesses, large and small, within the board’s grasp.
On July 18, the NLRB is holding a hearing on its proposal to overhaul virtually the entire manner and set of rules by which union-representation elections are conducted in the workplace. To the surprise of no one who can read federal election donation reports, all of the agency’s changes appear to help union bosses at the expense of everyone else.
The laundry list of changes is breathtaking in its impact: instituting ambush or “quickie” elections to recklessly speed up the process, clearly intended to reduce communication between employers and employees about unions; delaying crucial questions over the eligibility of employees to vote, possibly tainting the entire election process; and ensuring that employers must turn over ready-for-campaign digital information about their work forces so unions can contact every employee at home by phone and email.
Tack on the board’s recent decisions, which promote card check, turn a blind eye to voter intimidation by union supporters and express a rekindled affection for union banners, and the picture becomes crystal clear: The NLRB is doing everything in its power to bail out unions.
Should anyone be surprised? A cynic would say no. This is the same board that has suggested that it should force companies to treat Girl Scouts selling cookies and union bosses equally when it comes to workplace access.
It’s the same board that is considering changing decades of precedent to allow swarms of micro-unions that organize by cherry-picking friendly employees, bypassing likely “no” votes and annihilating companies through a death of a thousand cuts.
It’s the same board that proposed a rule that would force employers to post virtual advertisements for union membership - notices that conveniently would omit the fine print alerting employees of their right to avoid paying for the union’s political activities, their right to vote out unions that aren’t representing their interests and the applicability of right-to-work laws in their state.
It’s also the same board that has been excoriated by mainstream news outlets for its absurd effort to tell aircraft manufacturer Boeing that it cannot build some of its aircraft in South Carolina - a business-friendly location - because union bosses have claimed such a decision would be retaliation for their costly strikes.
The timing of the NLRB’s proposal to change the election process should give even further pause to observers. It comes just a day after the Department of Labor announced that it seeks to require employers to disclose payments for “persuader” activity to parties who advise businesses on how to discuss union issues with their employees. The timing casts a shadow over the White House’s repeated claims that the board operates outside the president’s influence.
The Labor Department’s proposed rule almost certainly would result in a deep chilling effect on small-business owners, who would be afraid of picking up the phone to ask their attorneys about legal options, thus decreasing their likelihood of providing information to employees and increasing the likelihood of unintentionally violating arcane organizing laws. The NLRB and Labor Department proposals work hand in glove to ensure that employees learn little to nothing about the union organizing them from anyone but the union itself. In this way, the administration proposes to hand over to its union allies a key component of the failed - and disastrous - Employee Free Choice Act: employer silence.
Next week’s NLRB hearing is another sign the administration isn’t listening: American workers want jobs, and American employers want to create them. The economy can’t grow and employers can’t hire while fending off a government-backed assault by labor bosses.
Geoffrey Burr is chairman of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.