- - Monday, October 5, 2015

In yet another example of the Obama administration promoting Big Labor, the White House and Department of Labor will hold a “Summit on Worker Voice” on Wednesday to encourage unionization and promote organized labor. According to WhiteHouse.gov, the event will bring together “workers, employers, unions, organizers and other advocates and experts — to explore ways to ensure that middle class Americans are sharing in the benefits of the broad-based economic growth that they are hoping to create.” While rather innocuous sounding, the event is nothing more than a government-sanctioned union organizing drive.

With union membership at its lowest rate in 100 years, the White House mistakenly sees the national decline as a problem for employees, when in fact, workers are opting out because in today’s day and age, they see very little benefit to organized labor. Today’s workers would rather keep more of their hard-earned paychecks — not pay thousands in dues to an organization that doesn’t fight for them or represent their political interests. On Tuesday, the day before the White House summit, the Heritage Foundation plans to hold their own counterevent, “A Summit on Workers’ Empowerment,” to draw attention to excessive government regulations that hold employees back and the issues Big Labor has caused.

Let’s take a look at some of those issues. Under the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a supposedly “independent” agency that serves as the official arbiter of labor disputes, has run rampant, hurriedly enacting rule after rule — arguably unconstitutional ones at that — to boost union membership recruitment and retention. From the rash “ambush election” ruling to the crippling “joint employer” rule, this administration’s NLRB rulings have changed the face of labor and will have lasting, anti-competitive impacts on America’s workforce and business community for years to come.

The ambush election rule, enacted in April, shortened election times from an average of 38 days after a petition to unionize is filed to as few as nine — leaving employers, including many small business, with only a little over a work week to hire outside counsel, educate their employees on the implications of unionization for their individual workplace and prepare for the election. As predicted, since the ambush election rule took effect, the number of election petitions filed has dramatically risen in the first few months. Since it’s now so easy and less resource-intensive for unions to file petitions, they are much more likely to do so, even when chances of success are slim.

In this summer’s Browning-Ferris case, the NLRB upended decades of settled labor law and ruled that companies can be held responsible for labor violations committed by franchisees, redefining the definition of “employer.” The joint employer decision “will single-handedly change the American franchise infrastructure that creates thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout various industries,” according to former NLRB chairman Peter Schaumber. Business groups from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Franchisee Association warn that this destructive decision affects the more than 800,000 franchises in the United States that generate more than $2 trillion in economic activity and employ 18 million American workers.



Despite these coercive tactics, employment is on the rise and union membership remains in decline, thanks in part to states around the country that work to protect employee freedom and pass right-to-work laws. The effects of these laws show that workers, when given the choice, would rather not be compelled to organize — even in previously heavily organized industries, like the automotive industry. Take Michigan, for example. In 2014, when the main provisions of the state’s 2012 right-to-work law started kicking in, employment increased but the state’s union membership fell sharply in just one year. And as previous contracts begin to expire and workers break free, even more of a drop-off is expected. Workers need choices, not coercion.

The Obama administration’s assault on business and employee freedom must not continue — or our workers and economy will be the ones to suffer. The next administration should work diligently to decrease organized labor’s grip on American workers.

Hector Barreto is the former head of the Small Business Administration.

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