Unions in Check: NLRB Permits Faster Challenges by Members

As the National Labor Relations Board hustles to clear its docket, corporations are being pleasantly surprised…while unions cry "foul".

Dozens of recent case decisions show a definitive intent by the Board to further limit organized labor. The Bush administration has long been the target of union criticism; after years of pro-union decisions during the Clinton years, the about-face created tremendous issues for unions. Setting aside their own well-document issues — for example, the ongoing corruption probes, their pragmatic, practically-overnight embracing of migrant workers into union membership after years of ruthlessly demonizing them, etc. — organized labor has decided that the current Board simply isn’t playing fair. But are they correct?

It depends how you view it. The five appointed members of the NLRB inlcude three Republicans and two Democrats. Two of the Republicans’ and one of the Democrats’ terms are due to expire soon. A 3/2 split is hardly outrageous for political appointees and the NLRB Chairman, Republican Robert Battista, says the claims of the unions are horse-hooey: they are clearing the docket because the docket needs to be cleared and there is nothing partisan whatsoever going on. But the nature of the beast itself IS political, as can be documented by the consistently pro-union votes of the Democrats and the consistently anti-union votes of the Republicans.

But one decision in particular is relevant to large employers: limitations in "card checks". Basically, when a union attempts to organize within an employer, the employer may agree to recognize the union as a majority if the majority of workers in the company have signed cards showing their support for unionization. Obviously, unions love this because it is easy to get a signature for a generic endorsement…and much harder to wage war via a voting campaign.

Because unions are in the business of generating revenues for unions, the more members, the better. Duh. But in doing so, many make a lot of promises which soon vaporize, leaving the new members with only union dues as a reminder of their union membership. Accordingly, many who sign a card check soon change their minds. Under federal labor laws, once a union is recognized via card check, disgruntled members can’t force an actual vote for 3 years or the length of the initial contract, whichever is less.

Accordingly, the you-know-what hit the fan when the Board recently decided that a minority of workers can seek an election within 45 days of a card-check driven formation.

This means two things:

-false promises are no longer a viable means of inducing card check support and

-employees affected by unionization will be for the first time ever empowered to challenge deceptive union formation practices.

As we learned through the elections we forced upon Iraq, democracy may not make everyone happy, but that’s precisely what democracy is..