When Talking About Unions You Cannot Avoid Talking About Politics

by Michael Haberman on April 30, 2012 · 0 comments


 

The NLRB is making many decisions that are favorable to unions.

I occasionally get a critique from students on my “political” views about unions. But it is hard to talk about unions without being somewhat political, at least not in today’s current environment. It is no secret that unions are political. They overwhelmingly support Democrat party candidates over Republican. They gave overwhelming monetary support to get a Democrat elected President. In turn the process of controlling the rules making process is by nature a political process in that the makeup of the National Labor Relations Board. The party in power controlling the White House controls the power of the NLRB. So in talking about unions you cannot avoid talking about politics.

The current National Labor Relations is composed of five members. As has been standard practice three have ties with Democrats and two are aligned with the Republicans. They work in concert with the General Counsel who investigates and enforces Board decisions. The NLRB has been busy this year, with trying to intervene in a Boeing decision to open a plant in South Carolina; ruling on social media policies and the definition of “protected concerted activity”, trying to get a poster required for all employers and most recently changing the nature and time frame of union elections.

As I wrote the other day in The NLRB Poster is Dead At Least for the Rest of 2012, a federal judge stopped the NLRB poster requirement and told all the parties to prepare for trial in September. The most recent action involves rulings on how representation cases may be decided and in what time frame. This was produced by the acting General Counsel, Lafe Solomon and you can read the MEMO, Guidance Memorandum on Representation Case Procedure Changes. According to Mike Vandervort, who has a long history in Labor Relations “This is a big deal!” And these changes go into effect immediately on April 30, 2012. You can read his post on this blog here.

Lest you think this are just some isolated incidents, here is a summary of cases decided by the NLRB just for the week of April 16-20, 2012.

    • The Board agreed with the administrative law judge’s finding that an employee’s phone calls to third parties constituted protected, concerted activity.
    • The Board ordered the respondent to cease and desist from failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with the union, as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the employees in the bargaining unit; refusing to furnish the union with information that was relevant and necessary to its role as the collective-bargaining representative; and interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them by the Act.
    • The Acting General Counsel sought a default judgment in this case on the ground that respondent failed to file an answer to the complaint.  The Board ordered the respondent to cease and desist from failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the union
    • The Board ordered the respondent to cease and desist from failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with the union as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the employees in the bargaining unit; and interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them by the Act.

Not a single case that did not favor the union side. And with these rules changes this is not likely to improve.

In an article published in Bloomberg, reporter Holly Rozenkrantz writes “Last month, the board’s acting general counsel said in a memo that unfair labor practices are “severe” during organizing campaigns. He said he would put a priority on protecting employee freedom of choice with regard to unionization.”

In the U.S. News & World Report, contributing Peter Roff  explains the impact the new rules may have on employer and employees in Obama’s Renegade NLRB Is Disrupting the Recovery. He says “By shortening the timetable for union elections the board has acted in a way that dramatically tips the balance in favor of the union while doing little to help the workers, unless one assumes that being “unionized” is automatically to a worker’s benefit.” I would suggest you read his article to get the full impact.

Mike Vandervort is correct, this is a big deal. A union may be organizing your workplace as you read this and you probably don’t know it. What are you going to do if you have five days to respond to an election notice? Think you will  be able to get your message out to your employees? Doubtful. So you need to prepare now. Stay tuned and I will provide some guidance on what you can do to be prepared.

Understand now how and why understanding the “politics” is important?

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