Big Labor Gets Early Christmas Present from NLRB

Labor regulators open door for ambush union elections

December 12, 2014

Employers and worker advocates are blasting the National Labor Relations Board for tilting the union election process in Big Labor’s favor on Friday.

The NLRB finalized the so-called ambush election rules on Friday, which will speed up the timeframe of elections. The new set of rules passed on party lines with two Republican appointees on the five-member board dissenting. NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, a former union attorney, hailed the decision as the path to modernization.

"Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all," he said in a release.

Critics of the rule, ranging from employers to Republican lawmakers, have said that the policy gives labor an unfair advantage. While unions can spend years preparing for an election through petition campaigns, employers will have only a few weeks to address the potential consequences of unionization. Workers will not get to hear both sides of the issue, according to National Retail Federation vice president David French.

"These men and women will be forced to make a decision that could drastically change their workplace environment without adequate information and time to consider the issues before them," French said in a release.

House Republicans said that the administration’s actions will have economic consequences for workers and employers. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R., Minn.) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chair Phil Roe (R., Tenn.) said in a statement that the rules "cripple workers’ free choice" and said that legislation is needed to curb executive "overreach."

"The American people want policies that will set us on the path to a stronger economy, more jobs, and higher wages for working families. This misguided ambush election rule will pull our country in the opposite direction. Congress cannot stand by and let that happen. The committee has been leading the fight against the president’s radical labor board, and rest assured, we will continue to do so," they said in a statement.

French said that the rule is "unnecessary and unfair" since the election system already gives adequate time for employees to make an informed choice.

"This rule is the latest attempt by the Obama administration to aid their allies in Big Labor at the expense of employers and employees," French said.

The National Right to Work Committee blasted the board for making union campaigns "even more one-sided."

"The NLRB’s new ambush union organizing election rules make union organizing campaigns even more one-sided and stifle the rights of employees who may oppose unionization in their workplace," NRTW president Mark Mix said in a statement. "Although a secret ballot election can’t prevent the fundamental violation of individual rights that occurs under union boss monopoly bargaining, at the very least a reasonable election period is needed that gives workers enough time to educate their coworkers about the potential impact of unionization after months or even years of union organizing and propaganda."

Mix said that the new rules place the interests of union bosses over those of employees.

"This power grab reminds us once again that the Big Labor-dominated NLRB, and in fact federal labor law, is not written and enforced to help workers, but to empower union officials with unique and damaging privileges designed to bolster their power and revenue," Mix said.

French said that the latest rule demonstrates that the administration is willing to override the legislative process using its regulators. The new rules echoed the language of card check legislation that a Democratic-controlled Congress failed to pass when Obama took office in 2009.

"After failing to achieve legislative success with the Employee Free Choice Act, even with a strong Democratic majority in Congress in 2009 and 2010, the administration has been relentless in trying to slip major elements of the legislation into law through regulatory action," French said.

The new rule is the second blow dealt to employers this week. The NLRB ruled on Thursday that employers must give unions access to employee emails during organizing campaigns. That will give unions unprecedented access to personnel information and make it easier to reach out to employees, according to management-side labor attorney David Phippen of Constangy, Brooks, & Smith.

"The Board majority … asserted that email was the modern-day equivalent of the workplace "water cooler" for employee communications. According to the Board majority, employees presumptively have a right to communicate in that space, absent a showing that employer-imposed restrictions are necessary to maintain production and discipline. (Necessary by what standard? Unanswered.)," Phippen wrote in a newsletter.

The ambush election rules will work hand-in-hand with that ruling to make unionization inevitable, according to Mix.

"The rules also mandate that workers’ personal information be handed over to union officials, and combined with yesterday’s NLRB ruling that employers must allow company-owned email systems be used for union organizing, the new rules open the door for cyber-bullying by union organizers," he said in the statement.

The NRF says that it is prepared to take the administration to court to overturn the regulations.

"Undermining the integrity of the union organizing process by speeding up elections ensures that workers will not have access to all of the facts when making decisions. The only winners here are union organizers," French said. "The National Retail Federation is considering both a legal and legislative strategy to combat the outrageous erosion of employee and employer rights at the NLRB."

The new rules are scheduled to go into effect in April.

Published under: NLRB , Unions