Last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), stacked with Democratic appointees loyal to Big Labor, enacted new procedures to govern unionization elections.
The new rules provide union organizers with more personal information (including phone numbers, home and email addresses) to press, prod and harass those employees who want nothing to do with them. It’s not a popular move: National polling shows 85 percent of Americans support employees being able to refuse having their personal information revealed to union organizers.
Meanwhile, the new rules provide another wrinkle to make it easier for union solicitors to capture dues-paying members. Under the previous rules, it took an average of 38 days from the filing of an organizing petition to the holding of the election. The new rules shorten the campaign to as few as 13 days. The advantage? Union organizers can quietly lay the groundwork while promising the moon. After the union surfaces with a formal request for a vote, employers will be denied sufficient time to highlight the gap between labor’s promises to deliver on their wish list and business realities.
This is a big deal for organized labor. Unions’ win rates decline when employees have an opportunity to assess union “promises.” The Labor Relations Institute has calculated that unions win a respectable 60 percent of elections held in 36 or more days after requesting a vote (the high rate is attributable to unions withdrawing from elections when they sense they are going to lose). However, the union success rate approaches 90 percent if the election is held in 21 days or less. Union organizers operate like high-pressure car salesmen who don’t want you leaving the dealership with too much time to consider their offer.
Why would President Obama and congressional Democrats support this assault on employee privacy? Why deny giving people enough time to consider the impact of being forced into a union? How about ensuring a steady flow of union money to Democrats’ elections and party bank accounts while providing a flood of dues money into nonprofit organizations that support the leftist agenda?
In the 2014 elections, roughly 89 percent of union campaign contributions went to Democrats. Similarly, an analysis of Labor Department disclosures shows that unions sent more than $109 million from member dues to liberal and left-wing outside groups that have little to do with union issues of wages, benefits or working conditions.
A proposal by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee would correct the partisan imbalance of the National Labor Relations Board to restore its impartiality and reverse these new rules. Another idea is to take the opportunity provided by the overreach of Mr. Obama’s board to refashion our basic labor law for the 21st century.
The Employee Rights Act (ERA), a package of popular reforms that will be reintroduced in Congress, offers such a path. Rather than assuming that most employees want to join a union (as the Obama NLRB seems to), the ERA recognizes that today’s workforce wants individual autonomy. The Employee Rights Act assures that unions establish and maintain true majority support before collectively bargaining for anyone. The ERA ensures that employees are given the right to refuse having their dues fund political groups they personally don’t support.
It would be easy to only think about the overreach of Mr. Obama’s labor board. But by backing popular reforms in the Employee Rights Act, legislators could chart a path to much broader changes and get rewarded at the ballot box for the effort.
Admittedly even if the ERA could pass in this Congress, Mr. Obama would never sign it. The good news is that once the public fully understands the opportunity and value for each individual, the next president would be foolish to turn a deaf ear.
• Rick Berman is president of Berman and Co., a Washington public affairs firm.