NLRB Rewriting Labor’s Role In The Workplace

Fred Wszolek
June 2, 2011

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is changing the story for America’s businesses and right-to-work states through a series of decisions that represent a new level of activism and extremism unseen in past “independent” agencies. Thus far, under the Obama Administration’s unconfirmed nominees Lafe Solomon and Craig Becker one thing has remained consistent, workers and small businesses lose in almost every matter, while Big Labor bosses win.

And while the NLRB’s anti-business actions have garnered attention recently concerning the Boeing matter where they issued a complaint due to the company’s decision to build a second production line in a right-to-work state, many other job-killing decisions are at play in Obama’s labor board that seek to hurt job creators and reward union bosses.

For instance, NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman who has done extensive work for unions in the past recently expressed interest in compelling employers to turn over to union bosses sensitive information relating to business relocation decisions before a determination is made as to whether collective bargaining is even required. She wrote in a concurring opinion in a case involving Embarq Corporation that “[t]he Board’s task would be easier, and more importantly, the [National Labor Relations] Act’s policy of promoting collective bargaining might well be better served, if employers were required to provide unions with requested information about relocation decisions whenever there was a reasonable likelihood that labor cost concessions might affect the decision.”

The breadth of Liebman’s formulation is such that it could apply to every business relocation decision. Liebman’s version of the story is that Big Labor will use the information to adjust their negotiations and reach compromises with employers before they relocate. Common sense and experience dictate otherwise. Faced with the prospect of losing union dues, labor bosses will use the information to delay and thwart relocations regardless of their business necessity. All this has to do with Embarq Corporation deciding to close a Las Vegas office and relocate it to Florida, a right-to-work state. The board majority ruled that Embarq had no duty to bargain over its relocation decision. Liebman did not disagree but declared her intent to use cases like Embarq to push unions into the boardroom and put them in control of business decisions many of which oftentimes require expedition.

What is really happening is that Liebman is dramatically increasing Big Labor’s power over management’s capital allocation decisions and placing businesses in a lose-lose situation. Companies’ relocation decisions will be second-guessed before they are effectuated. One union boss information request will be followed by yet another resulting in a labor-led audit, giving Big Labor access to payrolls, company tax information and more. Union heads who feel entitled to this information would not care about its confidentiality, manipulating it when it serves their needs in swaying policy or opinion, or worse yet, in blackmailing company executives to do as they demand.

Demanding privileged information from businesses is just part of an ongoing effort to bail out failing unions at the expense of jobs. While private sector employees continue to reject unionization, and our elected representatives have effectively defeated legislative labor handouts like the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act, union bosses have found that so long as they can place allies high enough in Washington’s bureaucracy they can get their way and force unionization on Americans through administrative fiat.

Not content to make companies vulnerable to Big Labor bosses when relocating, the NLRB has found a way to actually make it illegal for a company to set up another shop in a right-to-work state. In a case against Boeing, the board is trying to establish a precedent that would grant to itself a final say in whether a business may or may not open a new facility out of state. After negotiations with their union fell apart, Boeing decided to build a new facility in South Carolina. Rather than allow Boeing to conduct business as it saw fit, union bosses filed a charge with their friends at the NLRB. The Acting General Counsel was more than willing to accommodate the union. While initially telling Boeing that the NLRB should not be involved in their decision, he filed a complaint seeking to ban Boeing from building aircraft in South Carolina or in any other right-to-work state for that matter.

As if these attacks on the rights of businesses were not ugly enough, the NLRB is working to give union bosses undemocratic footholds in right-to-work states. The NLRB filed suit against South Dakota and Arizona whose citizens overwhelmingly passed constitutional amendments guarantying a secret ballot election. Contrary to the complaint’s allegations, the amendments are just like current Federal law but inconsistent with the view of the NLRB’s current political leadership. They favor unreliable card checks because union bosses have an easier time getting an employee’s signature on a card then they do getting the employee’s vote on a secret ballot.

But, unfortunately, we might not have seen the worst quite yet. The NLRB is deciding whether it should approve very small collective bargaining units under one roof essentially creating separate unions for every kind of job in a business. This would be an extreme departure from board law and would create worker factions negotiating against each other in a business that would prove disastrous. It would negatively impact business operations and drastically increase costs forcing many employers to go under.

And if that wasn’t enough, the NLRB has also expressed interest in closing the workplace election window which typically takes just over a month. The process allows both sides to make their case to workers and they then determine whether to form a collective bargaining unit or not. Not satisfied with a process resulting in fewer workers choosing to form unions, some board members want to close the window to less than a week which would not allow employers to adequately inform employees about the consequences of unionization in the form of costs and workplace procedures. This serves as just another example of government and labor working hand in hand to force unionization on workers.

Should the National Labor Relations Board be allowed to force these policies on businesses, the results in a down economy could be disastrous. Employers today are operating on extremely thin margins and the Federal government mandating that they give proprietary information to union bosses, prohibiting them from moving into right-to-work states, creating various mini-unions within one place of work, and closing the window concerning workplace elections does not create a single job and eliminates basic freedoms in pursuit of a radical, pro-union agenda.

Only by raising the awareness level of what could come next from President Obama’s job-killing labor board can we hope to thwart their campaign against workers and small businesses.

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