NLRB targets secret ballot and private employee information
By Fred Wszolek, Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) - 01/09/13 10:15 AM ET
For much of the last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has focused almost exclusively on rewarding union bosses with decisions that hurt workers and small businesses. Board Member Brian Hayes was the sole countervailing voice providing a balanced view of the facts and law.
Now, with Hayes’ term on the Board having expired, the Board is likely to take actions without input from members who have a broader perspective on labor management issues. For example, it is anticipated that the Board may try to undermine the secret ballot, a core element of workplace democracy, and provide union bosses with access to proprietary employee contact information.
Last year, Chairman Mark Pearce told a media outlet that the Obama Board had to keep its “eye on the prize.” According to The Associated Press, “One change Pearce wants is requiring businesses to hand over lists of employee phone numbers and emails to union leaders before an election.” Giving labor organizers private employee contact information without the worker’s consent is an unwarranted encroachment on employees’ privacy rights, and it opens the door to union harassment and intimidation. In addition, when it was disclosed that the Board was considering electronic off-site voting – a form of computerized card check – the Congress intervened and prevented any appropriations from being used for that purpose. Undoubtedly, the NLRB may try again. Off-site electronic voting, not unlike card check, would subject a worker’s vote to the scrutiny of third parties. It would expose workers to pressure tactics, even bullying, to assure they voted the union way.
While the NLRB is likely to try to accomplish these goals without a single minority member serving on it, a review of decisions issued since 1947 reveals that is extremely rare for a three member Board to issue major decisions. With only very few exceptions, major NLRB decisions have been reserved for a “full” Board, meaning one with at least four members. This provided participation from members of both political parties, which assured thorough deliberations and gave Board decisions the credibility considered necessary in this controversial arena for resolving labor-management disputes.
The Workforce Fairness Institute has repeatedly called on the NLRB to abide by this long-standing tradition and abstain from issuing decisions that change existing law or make new law until at least one minority member is seated. While we hope the Board will heed our advice, we are not entirely optimistic.
The NLRB is composed of three partisan members who seem to view unions as their sole constituency. Chairman Mark Pearce has aggressively pursued labor’s agenda. He called an unusual public Board meeting in November 2011 to pressure and embarrass his Republican colleague after which he rammed through a “quickie election” rule on the vote of only two members. Board Members Richard Griffin and Sharon Block appear to be cut from the same cloth. Griffin is the former general counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). He is the second Board member in history to come directly from organized labor, Craig Becker was the first. He has been described as a “top lawyer for [a] union tainted by mob ties, history of corruption.” Block served as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Obama Labor Department. As one of Secretary Hilda Solis’ former lieutenants, it is not surprising that in her first year on the Board she has towed the line for union bosses to the detriment of workers and their employers.
Employees and small businesses are under threat due to the one-sided actions being taken by the Obama Labor Board. The same union bosses who bankrolled the president’s campaigns are demanding payback. But without voices on the Board that are willing to consider the legitimate rights and interests of workers and employers, the agency will be deprived of the legitimacy all government agencies require for their decisions to be respected.
Wszolek is a spokesperson with the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).