Opinion

Becker’s NLRB forces unionization through administrative action

Katie Packer Gage Executive Director, Workforce Fairness Institute

The function of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is to administer the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the primary law governing relations between unions and private sector employers.  In the past year, the NLRB has become increasingly anti-employer.  It started with the recess appointment of labor radical Craig Becker, a former attorney for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who did not receive enough support in the Senate to get confirmed.  As a result, President Obama delivered “payback” to Big Labor bosses by naming Becker to the board through a recess appointment, doing an end-run around Congress.

Shortly thereafter, Becker’s promises to advance the union boss agenda in spite of the board’s so-called “independence” began to come to fruition.  First, the NLRB made a request for information concerning electronic voting systems.  The current system of paper ballot voting is monitored at worksites.  The proposed electronic voting system would take place at some other location, making it possible for union bosses and organizers to coerce and intimidate workers.

Now, the NLRB is considering reversing a determination that employees have a 45-day window to file petitions for election or decertification after being notified that the employer has recognized a union through a so-called “voluntary” card check agreement.  Removing this requirement shortchanges workers, who have the right to educate themselves about a critical workplace decision.  This is nothing more than another form of forced unionization and a gift to labor bosses.

And while Becker claims not to have come to a conclusion in advance of hearing arguments or reviewing information on this matter, it is important to note he previously and publicly opposed allowing employees to have the right to vote against the formation of a collective bargaining unit.

And if that wasn’t enough, the NLRB is now considering allowing union representation elections to go forward even when an employers’ ability to communicate with employees about the advantages or disadvantages of unionization has been unlawfully limited, even though the unions’ ability to do the same was not minimized in any way.

The NLRB’s recent actions are in line with Becker’s written statements that employers should have no say whatsoever in the unionization process.  And even though Becker promised to serve as an evenhanded arbiter, his actions reveal his bias in favor of Big Labor’s agenda.

When Becker spoke before the Senate just a few short months ago, he said that as a member of the National Labor Relations Board he would not weigh in on matters involving his previous employers.  But he has already been mired in controversy for failing to recuse himself in the face of obvious conflicts of interest concerning cases involving the SEIU.

All these recent developments come as NLRB member Peter Schaumber’s term expires, leaving the agency with just three confirmed members, plus Becker and an open general counsel position.  These developments should raise red flags for the business community.

For small business owners, who have spent the last three years fighting passage of the job-killing Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a new threat looms: the NLRB putting in place the main components of the legislation administratively.  Union bosses have stated they expect as much from Becker, and his early performance demonstrates he is more than willing to comply.

EFCA’s goal is to ensure more unionized workplaces and therefore more dues-paying members for Big Labor bosses.  The bill would remove the right of workers to a secret ballot in union voting, forcing them to declare their support or opposition publicly on signed cards.  This method, often called “card check,” would expose workers to intimidation at the hands of labor bosses.

Another devastating aspect of EFCA is the binding arbitration clause, which would inject a government bureaucrat into employee-employer contract negotiations.  In effect, EFCA would not only strip workers of their right to vote freely on the formation of a collective bargaining unit, it would strip them of their right to negotiate contracts affecting their livelihoods.

It is becoming increasing clear that the real danger of forced unionization now lies with the unelected members of the NLRB, who could easily bypass Congress and enact components of the job-killing EFCA legislation on their own.  This concentrated power in the hands of people like Craig Becker is a threat to workers’ rights.

And while Becker may not think people are watching, he is sorely mistaken.  In fact, Becker and the other NLRB members should understand that the American people are paying close attention and will not look kindly upon those who put barriers before our nation’s job creators all in an effort to empower and enrich union bosses, while advancing their job-killing policies.

Katie Gage is the executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute.