Labor Law Has Undergone Unprecedented Changes Under Obama, Study Details
Regulations that unfairly benefit unions have accelerated at an unprecedented rate under the Obama administration, concludes a report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute released Thursday.
In the report, titled “Federal Labor Agencies Ambush American Economy,” author Trey Kovacs shows how labor law has changed dramatically under the leadership of President Barack Obama. The trajectory of the changes are often at the expense of working Americans and their employers, Kovacs concludes.
“The Department of Labor (DOL) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are seeking to impose costly regulations that threaten to seriously disrupt workplaces around the nation and the greater economy,” the report contested. “The real goal of these burdensome regulatory proposals is to make it easier for unions to organize workplaces. Job creation and worker freedom are at risk.”
The regulatory changes seen through the administration have been extensive. Agencies have made it easier for unions by trying to end secret ballot elections, changing overtime rules, and by making it easier to win workplace elections, the report notes. They’re also attempting drastic changes to franchise rules, making business owners less likely to take the risks associated with franchising their companies.
“The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would have effectively done away with secret ballots in union organizing elections by allowing unions to organize workplaces through a procedure known as card check,” the report detailed. “Whereby union organizers collect signatures out in the open—thus exposing workers to pressure and intimidation.”
One of the most contested regulatory changes impacts how union elections are held. The new procedure, dubbed the “ambush election” rule by critics, drastically shortened the length of time in which a union certification election must be held, from a median of 38 days to as little as 11 days. It was implemented in April.
“The short time frame gives employees little time to educate themselves on the pros and cons of unionizing, and undermines employers’ ability to respond to unionization campaigns,” the report claimed. “The NLRB rule as constructed intends to limit the debate needed for workers to evaluate the benefits of union membership.”
“The only message workers are likely to hear is from the union, which has been organizing for months in advance,” the report continued. “Often without the employer’s knowledge.”
The NLRB has countered critics by stating the rule will help to modernize the union election process. This, it says, will help everyone involved.
Attempts to challenge the rule have been unsuccessful for the most part. The Republican controlled Congress tried to prevent it with a resolution which was vetoed by the president. Lawsuits filed against the NLRB by the business community have also had trouble.
Attempts to redefine the franchise model has also garnered a lot of opposition from Republican lawmakers and business groups. Under the National Labor Relations Act, a company can be considered an employer over a company it contracts with if it has significant control over its employees.
Known as the joint-employer standard, the rule helps to resolve labor disputes when it’s not clear whether the dispute arose from decisions made by the direct employer or a larger corporation it contracts with. Cases involving McDonald’s, CNN, and Browning-Ferris Industries, however, have provided the NLRB the opportunity to revisit the standard which it now plans to drastically expand.
“It is much easier for unions to organize one large employer than hundreds or thousands of small businesses,” the report stated. “Thus, making large franchise brands, like McDonald’s, joint employers with their independently operated franchises gives unions the ability to unleash the union organizing strategy known as a corporate campaign.”
The report notes this may be out of a sense of obligation the president feels towards the labor movement. As Obama himself noted in his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” while a presidential candidate, “I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away. I don’t consider this corrupting in any way.”
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