By: Bob Lucore
Beginning today, Monday April 30th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will begin to enforce a new set of procedures for union representation elections. Workers and their allies won a victory last week by stopping a conservative effort in the Senate to interfere in NLRB rule-making and block these simple and limited reforms.
The new procedures make very modest changes. They attempt to limit the efforts of some unscrupulous employers to use irresponsible litigation to keep workers from voting to choose whether or not they want union representation.
Over the last several decades, there has been a growing trend for employers to use unfair and illegal tactics to prevent workers from exercising the simple right to vote—either for or against—union representation. Evidence from a recent study by Kate Bronfenbrenner (Cornell University) and Dorian Warren (Columbia University) shows that illegal employer tactics are much more likely to occur when union elections are delayed. The new procedures are intended to put some limits on delaying tactics.
Workers are often face delays of months or years between the time they file a petition asking for a union election, and the time when they are actually allowed to vote. The new rules will put limits on some of the more egregious roadblocks used to delay free elections. The rules will help cut unnecessary and costly litigation that has hampered the NLRB’s ability to ensure that fair and timely elections take place.
Republican efforts to block the NLRB were remarkably shrill and extremist in tone. However, this has become a common occurrence during the Obama years. Republicans routinely attack the NLRB for simply doing what it is required to do by law. As Josh Eidelson put it in the Nation, “Republicans have accomplished what Democrats and unions never could: they’ve made the National Labor Relations Board a household name.”
American Right at Work put together this great chart outlining nearly 50 attacks on the NLRB that were launched by conservatives in Congress during just 10 months last year.
The root of all this controversy over the NLRB was summarized nicely by John Logan of San Francisco State University in The Hill, “the GOP has moved far to the right and no longer believes that workers should be free to select representatives of their own choosing and engage in collective bargaining to improve their terms and conditions of work.”
The National Labor Relations Act, the law that established the NLRB back in 1935, states that the agency is supposed to be “encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and … protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self- organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.” It is time for the Republicans to let the agency do its job.
Bob Lucore, a long-time ADA board member, is the former Director of Research and Policy for the United American Nurses and has worked for the Teamsters and the Department of Economic Research at the AFL-CIO. . He taught economics for several years at Centre College and Colorado State University and is currently a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University. Bob is a member of UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union.