Opinion

Micro unions could be macro problem

Brett McMahon President, Miller and Long DC

It seems like lately at every turn the National Labor Relations Board tries something new to upend years of fair workplace practices and standards. As the board drifts more and more into being an official taxpayer-funded extension of Big Labor, it gives new meaning to the old adage, “if you can’t win the game, change the rules.”

The most recent evidence of this is a case called “Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9.” If Big Labor’s go-to-guy on the board, Craig Becker, gets his way, the NLRB’s ruling in the case will trash half a century of established law in favor of new standards aimed at letting unions organize “micro unions” by cherry-picking groups of employees within companies. So, for example, the dishwashers at a restaurant could unionize separately from the rest of the employees, or even in addition to, say, the busboys union.

Such a ruling would reverse over 50 years of standards for bargaining units. As a result, small business owners may be forced to fend off multiple, confusing union organizing campaigns. The attendant increase in litigation, red tape and legal bills may well mean less money to grow businesses and create jobs.

Imagine a small business owner who owns a manufacturing plant. He spends his time trying to innovate, manage operations, handle staffing issues, procure materials and generate sales. Now, with a ruling such as the one the NLRB is trying to push through, he could find himself face to face with union organizers pushing multiple separate unionizing drives, demanding different pay scales and benefits packages, and operating under different shift hours and rules.

For an employer, such a ruling would be the equivalent of a regulatory drawing and quartering, as all the different factions would be able to pull him in different directions. Meanwhile, the employees who wish to remain union-free would get bypassed in favor of those who want to unionize, leaving them disenfranchised by the micro unions around them.

There’s no cause for the government to consider such a move, and that’s why the current system has been in place for decades — under multiple Democratic and Republican boards. The push for micro-unionization is the latest evidence that former SEIU attorney Craig Becker has forced the NLRB to an inappropriate role of activism on behalf of organized labor and at the expense of employees and employers.

During Becker’s tenure, the board has pushed unprecedented and disruptive changes to labor laws, including: stripping the right to secret ballots in cases where an employer signs an agreement; providing union agents access to an employer’s property, even where the union is there simply to harm the business; potentially opening the door to card check drives at charter schools; and even authorizing the NLRB’s general counsel to sue states in which voters have attempted to protect secret ballots. CDW warned that a renewed fight over Becker’s nomination to the NLRB, along with his continued presence, would directly contradict the president’s latest statements in support of employers and job creation.

Such a blatantly activist move by the NLRB — going around employees’ wishes and the framework of the law to force unionization upon small businesses in every manner possible — shows a complete lack of regard for job creation and economic reality, all in order to continue bailing out Big Labor.

Every day, more employers become aware of the NLRB’s real agenda. And with each new realization comes more frustration and anger at the capture of a federal agency by organized labor.

Small business owners know what our nation’s leaders need to recognize: Job creators need to be left alone to focus on creating jobs, not on battling a swarm of new union organizing campaigns. That includes reining in a board focused on special interests.

Brett McMahon is a spokesman for the Free Enterprise Alliance’s Halt The Assault campaign.