Big Labor Seeks To Force Unionization; Congress Must Step Forward

Fred Wszolek
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Posted: Jul 25, 2011 2:40 PM

For those who may have written off Big Labor’s agenda after they failed to push the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA) through Congress last year, they may want to take a careful look at the actions being undertaken by President Obama’s Administration and they’ll quickly find that the job-killing movement is alive and well.

In fact, EFCA has been resurrected in three specific changes being advanced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Department of Labor (DoL). And this should not be a surprise to anyone, as union bosses have been very clear that they expect Obama to pay them back for their political support and secondly, in the absence of EFCA, they would use unelected government bureaucrats within administrative agencies to enact portions of the law that failed to receive sufficient support from elected representatives in the Congress.

The NLRB and DoL are working to enact three sweeping rule changes that would restrict the freedoms of employers, while significantly shifting workplace power into the hands of Big Labor. Workers who would be directly and negatively affected by these changes are largely unaware that Washington, D.C. has declared war against them and jobs by advancing bureaucratic regulations that will increase unemployment and restrict hard-won liberties.

The NLRB is currently pushing two changes: quickie union elections and the formation of micro units. Both of these change decades-old board law and procedure that have not hurt unions, instead allowed them to win the majority of organizing elections and strengthened the collective bargaining unit that has been formed.

Successful union elections are still taking place with a 67.6 percent success rate. It is reported that unions brought in $8.8 billion in dues in 2010. So why the need for these rules changes? A closer examination shows that, quite simply, the Obama Administration is bailing out Big Labor with little to no regard for implications on workers due to the fact union membership has declined.

The proposed quickie election rule shortens the time for union elections from a median time of 38 days to as little as 10, depriving employees of the ability to make an informed choice on perhaps the most important issue they will face in the workplace: whether to unionize. The aim? To catch businesses off guard and leave them scrambling so that a vote happens before employees can study the facts. During an already difficult economic time, the proposal for quickie elections would place additional costs and burdens on small business owners, who lack the resources and legal expertise to navigate and fully comprehend the NLRB’s election processes.

By making micro-units available to Big Labor, a union may choose to organize just the poker dealers at a casino, rather than all game-table dealers, because it knows the poker dealers support the union, while the blackjack, craps, roulette and other dealers may not. Similarly, through a case known as Specialty Health Care, a union may organize a small group of employees working on one machine rather than all machinists in a manufacturing facility, because the majority of machinists do not want union representation. The result? An explosion of micro-units with as few as two members each as they are easier to organize than a larger group allowing union bosses to gain an easy foothold into a business. Imagine the logistical administrative nightmare that would be placed on businesses that have to deal with an influx of new, small collective bargaining units competing against each other under one roof. A multiplicity of units will dramatically increase an employer’s labor relations costs as it will have to negotiate and apply multiple collective bargaining agreements, impacting its productivity and success in the marketplace.

Finally, we have the Department of Labor. The DoL is proposing new impediments on employer speech and right to legal counsel. It recently proposed requiring the disclosure of detailed financial and other information by both the employer and any attorney representing the employer who provides legal advice during a union organizing campaign. This information would not only include the fees paid by the employer but also the name of every other client for which the attorney and his firm provides labor relations advice and the fees paid to each. Activities that would trigger the reporting requirement are training for management and supervisors, the review and/or preparation of employee handbooks and other materials to be used by the employer when communicating with its employees on the issue of unionization. This will have a chilling effect on the access to legal counsel which is critical for businesses that are unfamiliar with the complexities of applicable labor law. This in turn will limit employer speech and prevent employees from hearing both sides of the debate. Essentially, it is a gag rule on businesses to prevent them from fully informing their employees about what union representation would mean to them and the business.

All of these taken together are the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act by regulatory fiat. With unemployment over nine percent and 14 million Americans looking for work, this would severely damage the economy with workers and small businesses losing, and Obama’s political contributors in Big Labor winning.

Limiting businesses ability to communicate with their employees, forcing tiny bargaining units within the workplace, and mandating access to privileged and proprietary information is un-American and anti-jobs. The Obama Administration, having received nearly half a billion dollars in political campaign contributions from unions and their leaders in 2008 knows that that enacting EFCA through unelected bureaucrats within their administration will kill jobs, yet they have done nothing to impede its progress. In fact, they have encouraged it by appointing and nominating individuals such as NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon – the architect of the Boeing complaint – and NLRB Member Craig Becker, the chief advocate for changing decades of precedent in favor of micro-units.

Now is the time for the co-equal branch of government in the Congress to step forward and protect the businesses that generate revenue for the Treasury, employ their constituents and serve as the backbone of their communities. Members of the House of Representatives and Senate have the power of the purse string, and they must disallow the president’s regulators from enacting EFCA through administrative action. This is a critical portion of the jobs debate as EFCA would result in 600,000 lost jobs in one year alone. If we are to get our nation back on track, we must cut off the flow of taxpayer money to President Obama’s bureaucrats as they pursue job-killing handouts to Big Labor bosses.