The NLRB is not the only agency focused on giving Big Labor its expected “payback.” Another obscure agency named the National Mediation Board (NMB) changed a 75-year precedent in the airline and railroad industries. Under the NMB’s new rule a union can win an election without getting the support of a majority of employees. So, in a unit of 1,000 employees, the union will win recognition if 100 workers vote and 51 favor the union.
This brings us to the current Congress which is not interested in rewarding union bosses at the expense of American workers and their employers. As a result, Big Labor continues to look for its “payback” from Obama’s regulatory agencies and with the tacit endorsement of President Obama and his administration.
Currently, there are three principal threats to the rights of employees and employers which are being undertaken by the NLRB and the Department of Labor (DoL). They will do for Big Labor what EFCA would have accomplished: dramatically increase the power of unions and make organizing easier.
The first threat is a rule that the NLRB announced it was considering in a case called Specialty Healthcare. The new rule would allow “micro-units” in unionized American workplaces, meaning collective bargaining units as small as two people who are doing the same job in the same location. It would be a dramatic and significant departure from long-standing Board law under which a collective bargaining unit can be all the employees or something smaller such as a plant, department or craft. It is inconsistent with a workers’ right to be in a unit with sufficient collective bargaining strength to negotiate with their employer. However, in certain circumstances it could be used by organized labor to get an easy foothold into a business through a tiny group which, though small, is critical to the employer’s operation. With such a unit, the union can extort concessions from the business which it would not otherwise have made and which it may not be able to afford. Micro-units threaten a proliferation of units and a balkanization of the workplace as different unions with dissimilar goals seek to represent the employees. This will result in less harmony and more work-stoppages as employees are drawn into conflicts in which they have no interest. And employers will experience ever-increasing labor relations costs curtailing business growth because they will have to negotiate and apply multiple collective bargaining agreements.
Next on the NLRB’s docket is “quickie” or “ambush” elections. In a recently announced proposed rule – once again undoing decades of precedent – the Board proposed shortening the period of time for union elections from a median of 38 days to as little as 10. Its unstated goal is to achieve for Big Labor what card check would have accomplished. It will limit, if not eliminate, an employer’s ability, protected by the National Labor Relations Act, to express its views on unionization and its employees’ right to hear those views and make an informed choice. The only story the employees will have an opportunity to hear is the union story. The proposed rule also includes other outrageous measures that will cause the entire election process to be tilted against employers. For example, the employer will now have to identify all pre-election issues and participate in an adversarial hearing just seven days after the union files it petition. This will decrease the number of elections – 92% in 2010 – that proceed in a far less adversarial process by agreement of the parties and increase employer, as well as agency costs. And another provision violates the privacy rights of employees. The employer will be required to provide union organizers with a list of all employees in its proposed unit. Under current law, the list need only include the employee’s last known address. Under the proposed rule it will include the employee’s home and cellular telephone numbers, as well as personal e-mail addresses.
Micro-units and quickie or ambush elections will enormously increase the power of unions to the detriment of legitimate employee and employer rights and interests, and our struggling economy will suffer. They threaten an increase in work stoppages, workplace disharmony and employer labor relations costs.
Lastly, the DoL is undertaking an effort which threatens to limit the availability of legal advice employers receive during a union organizing campaign. Such advice is very important in this complicated area of the law to avoid making inadvertent and unintentional mistakes. Attorneys and the employers who retain them for such advice will be required under the rule to disclose privileged information, which includes financial statements, client lists and other documentation. It is widely anticipated that many attorneys and some law firms will stop offering such advice if the proposed “gag” rule is implemented. As a consequence, many employers will be restrained from addressing their employees and having the free and open debate on the question of unionization that the law intended. The Department of Labor is led by Hilda Solis, a well-known defender of union bosses and supporter of EFCA.
The above efforts by unelected government bureaucrats on behalf of union bosses will accomplish for Big Labor by regulatory fiat much of what it wanted to achieve through EFCA. In short, the Executive Branch of government, which is charged with enforcing laws, is now writing new ones not supported by the American people. It is time for Congress to step forward and send a clear message to President Obama by passing legislation undoing the job-killing actions of these agencies and, if necessary, cutting off the flow of taxpayer dollars for these anti-worker initiatives.
Michael J. Uremovich, president of Great Lakes Energy Consultants, LLC, Manhattan, Ill., began his term as national chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Jan. 1, 2011. Uremovich leads ABC’s executive committee and board of directors, guides the association’s national initiatives and serves as its spokesperson.
He previously served as ABC’s Region 2 vice chairman representing members and chapters in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In 2005, ABC presented Uremovich with its prestigious Grassroots Member of Year Award. Great Lakes Energy Consultants provides industrial construction clients with expertise in planning and scheduling, reliability improvement, development of a multi-craft workforce and improving safety processes and performance. Before launching Great Lakes Energy Consultants in November 2010, Uremovich was CEO and chairman of the board of STARCON International, Manhattan, Ill., the industrial and mechanical contracting firm he founded in 1983, specializing in servicing the petrochemical industry. STARCON is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Cianbro Corporation.
Uremovich currently holds two U.S. patents for devices associated with the oil and petrochemical industry.