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Latest News - December 2010

December 27, 2010
NLRB flexing its union muscle
Source: NewsOk

UNION membership in America’s private sector has fallen for years with no sign of a change, although the Obama administration is certainly doing all it can to reverse the pattern.

It was roughly a year ago that President Obama made a number of recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, placing the panel in the control of a Democratic majority for the first time in years. Among those appointed was Craig Becker, who had been lawyer for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union.

Becker’s nomination was fought by Senate Republicans, who were concerned, with good reason, about his stridency. The Wall Street Journal cited an example in an editorial last year — Becker’s assertion some years earlier that “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.” Or as the Journal paraphrased, “employers should be barred from telling their employees they shouldn’t unionize.”

Fast-forward a year and now comes the news that the NLRB is proposing a rule that would require most private employers to inform workers about their right to form a union. If the rule is approved, many businesses would be obliged to place posters in break rooms and other high-traffic areas, explaining workers’ rights to bargain collectively or engage in union activities without reprisal.

These notices make it clear that workers don’t have to join a union, and they touch on legal protections against union intimidation or misconduct. Still, The Associated Press noted in its report on this story, that the NLRB usually makes policy on a case-by-case basis. This move “signals a more aggressive posture by the labor board.”

No surprise there. Labor unions, which have long worked hand-in-glove with the Democratic Party, spent millions to help get Obama elected. He immediately returned the favor with an executive order requiring that similar posters be placed in the offices of government contractors, then followed it up with his recess appointments, and now those members are paying his generosity forward.

The NLRB said its intention is simply to inform employees about their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, “to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute, and to promote statutory compliance by employers and unions.” In fact the goal is simply to increase union membership, which has nose-dived to its current 7.2 percent in the private sector. That fall has prompted unions to look elsewhere for members, in particular the public sector.

Union leaders invigorated by Obama’s election have been disappointed by the failure to get some of their favorite ideas passed, such as “card check,” which would end secret-ballot elections in the workplace. Approval of this new rule would help ease that pain.



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