WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 7, 2011 -
The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to examine a recent proposal by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to rush union elections. The proposal would provide employers just seven days to prepare a legal case to present before the NLRB and delay answers to critical questions until after the union election. The proposal contains a series of changes to long-standing labor practices, and represents a dramatic shift in workforce policies. Members of the committee discussed the harmful impact this misguided proposal will have on employee free choice and employer free speech.
"Under the board’s proposal, a union election could occur in as little as 10 days," said Chairman Kline. "Where Big Labor can’t convince workers to unionize through an open and fair process, the NLRB will step in to stifle an employer’s free speech and undermine an employee’s free choice."
Hearing witnesses, including labor law experts, an employer, and an employee, shared Republican concerns that this activist proposal will hurt workers and employers.
John Carew, a small business owner from Appleton, Wisconsin, described his experience when a local union attempted to organize his workforce, and discussed the impact the NLRB proposal would have on small business employers. "Already, unions have the advantage of subtly working behind the scenes for months without an employer’s knowledge to persuade employees to unionize," said Carew. "It is only fair that an employer be allowed the current time frame to accurately communicate with employees. Employers are already at a disadvantage and under this new rule would be disadvantaged even further. Drastically limiting any amount of employee/employer communication brushes too close to infringing on the freedom of speech rights of both parties."
"The Board’s proposed rule assumes employers have no role to play in NLRB representation elections," said Michael Litito, a practicing attorney with vast experience in labor law. "This is the long-held view of one member of the Board who sits without benefit of Senate confirmation." Lotito went on to say this proposal "all but shuts the door on employers providing critical information to employees about the petitioning union, collective bargaining and potential strikes is of no moment."
Restricting an employer's right to communicate with his or her employees will undermine a worker's ability to make a fully informed decision in a union election. Larry Getts, an employee at a small auto parts packing and shipping company in Indiana, explained the consequences facing employees if the NLRB's propsal goes into effect.
"In reality," said Getts, "under these rules, the additional burden on already busy workers will prohibit them from making an informed decision -- especially where there is an absence of information from employers, as was the case in my experience. These rule changes are aimed at furthering the interests of Big Labor at the expense of workers’ ability to make a fully informed decision on an important matter. They are intended only to make it easier for union officials to harass and force workers like myself into joining their union, into paying dues and increasing the union bosses’ power."
Lotito added, "By depriving employees of views that are likely to be very different from the union’s, and information about the union that the union may be reluctant to divulge, the NLRB would impinge on employees’ right to make a free and informed choice. All this is calculated to hold elections before employees have an opportunity to think twice or perhaps even once."
Regretably for workers and employers, this proposal is the latest effort by an activist board determined to promote a culture of union favortism. "It is a startling display of the current Board‘s activism on an outcome long favored by organized labor," said former Board Chairman Peter Schaumber. "They can, and I believe will, impact on the willingness of entrepreneurs and other businesses to 'make here what they sell here.'"
"The board’s recent proposal is part of an ongoing effort to promote a culture of union favoritism that is creating greater uncertainty among America’s job creators," concluded Chairman Kline. "We cannot sit by and become willing accomplices in the NLRB’s job-destroying agenda.
To learn more about this hearing, please click here.