- - Sunday, September 1, 2013

NLRB fends for Big Labor, not the little guy

This Labor Day, Americans are starting to pay more attention to the National Labor Relations Board, the five member quasi-judicial agency that administers federal labor law — and for good reason.

In recent years, President Obama’s nominees to the board have quietly but systematically reshaped American labor law with little accountability.

Once Mr. Obama installed union lawyers to the NLRB via recess appointments, the board’s disregard for the rule of law and its agenda of putting union-boss priorities ahead of the rights of individual employees was soon apparent.

One of those appointments was former Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO union lawyer Craig Becker, who received a recess-appointment despite a bipartisan Senate vote against moving his nomination forward. Mr. Becker had publicly stated that secret-ballot elections are “profoundly undemocratic.”

With Mr. Becker on the board, the panel quickly went to work rolling back worker protections against coercive union organizing. The board overturned protections won by the National Right to Work Foundation in a case involving the Dana Corp., which gave workers subjected to a coercive union “card-check” organizing campaign a right to a secret-ballot election.

As Mr. Becker’s term expired and the board lost its three-member quorum to operate, the panel pushed through new election rules without allowing one member to participate in the process. These new rules forced employers to hand over workers’ contact information to aggressive union organizers and dramatically reduced workers’ chances to learn about the pros and cons of unionization before they are required to vote.

Employers also have not been immune to the NLRB’s forced-unionism agenda. The board made headlines when it decided to prosecute Seattle-based airline manufacturer Boeing for starting a new production line in South Carolina largely because South Carolina is a right-to-work state. The board’s attack on Boeing set a chilling precedent for other job providers seeking to expand in right-to-work states.

Since then, additional Obama “recess” appointments to the board (this time, made while the Senate was still in session) have continued to aggressively rewrite American labor law to give Big Labor more power, more dues and more political clout.

These “recess” appointed members issued rulings rolling back workers’ rights to refrain from paying for union political lobbying, allowing union militants to target and organize small units of workers if they know most employees at a workplace don’t want to join a union, and overturning 60 years of precedent to force companies to continue automatic collection of forced union dues from workers even after union contracts expire.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled early this year that Mr. Obama’s recess appointees were unconstitutional, and two other appeals courts agreed. However, the board didn’t bat an eye and continued to operate as normal despite the appeals court decisions. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the validity of Mr. Obama’s “recess” appointments during its upcoming term starting next month.

However, even if the Supreme Court strikes down the recess appointments as unconstitutional, rendering void almost 1,700 rulings as a result, Mr. Obama’s new board majority may try to rubber-stamp all of the outrageous decisions made while the board was operating unconstitutionally.

You see, Mr. Obama just recently installed four new members to the board with the help of weak-kneed Senate Republicans led by Sen. John McCain. This gives former union attorneys a board majority. One of the new members, Nancy Schiffer, a top lawyer for the AFL-CIO union, has testified before Congress in favor of card-check legislation and has a radical view of union organizing similar to Mr. Becker‘s. She has even argued that secret-ballot unionization elections are “inherently coercive.”

From the moment Mr. Obama’s forced-unionism partisans have taken over the NLRB, the panel has worked zealously to administratively enact power grabs Big Labor has failed to obtain through the legislative process. Concerned Americans should stay tuned and hope for better days on this Labor Day 2013.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

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