WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 22, 2011
In late August, the National Labor Relations Board introduced a series of sweeping changes to federal labor policy. Through three decisions handed down in one afternoon, the board restricted workers’ right to a secret ballot election, undermined employers’ ability to maintain unity in the workplace, and created new barriers for those who wish to challenge union representation.
For anyone following the Obama board, this barrage of activist decisions – however unacceptable - was not unexpected. But for workers and job creators struggling to move this country forward, it is an outrage.
Further, it is a roadblock to the strong economy our nation desperately needs. It’s unthinkable that any federal board would launch such a deliberate assault on our workforce, especially with millions of Americans unemployed. And it’s unconscionable for Congress to stand by and let it happen. That is why we are here today, and we have a great deal to discuss.
In its Specialty Healthcare decision, the board discarded decades of precedent in order to adopt a strict standard for determining which group or “unit” of employees can vote in a union election. Union leaders have long tried to organize smaller units of employees as an incremental step toward organizing an entire business. In an effort to preserve unity in the workplace and keep labor costs low, employers often seek to expand the unit to include a greater number of employees.
Under the board’s new standard, it will be virtually impossible for employers to challenge the group of employees handpicked by the union. The new standard empowers union leaders to manipulate workplaces for their own gain, with dramatic consequences in the real world. Some employers will be constantly engaged in costly labor disputes and workers will compete against their coworkers for wages and benefits.
The August onslaught also includes a decision that restricts workers’ right to a secret ballot union election. In its 2007 Dana decision, the board provided workers 45 days to request a secret ballot election if their employer voluntarily recognized union representation. We all know that a secret ballot election is the best way to determine the will of workers, without fear of coercion and intimidation. Remarkably, the Obama board shut this 45 day window. Now, if an employer voluntarily recognizes a union, workers may have to wait months and possibly years before they can cast a secret ballot.
At a recent hearing, the committee’s senior Democrat noted, “If workers want an election, they should get an election. They shouldn’t be met with fear, intimidation or delay for the sake of delay.” I couldn’t agree more, and I hope he’ll join me in condemning these decisions.
Meanwhile, the board is drafting new rules to govern union elections that will stifle employers’ free speech and cripple workers’ free choice, and is requiring employers to promote unionization in the workplace through a vague and biased notice drafted by board bureaucrats.
The goal of the board’s activism is clear: To expand the power of Big Labor by swelling the ranks of unionized workers, whatever the costs to the American people. The fact that this agenda is not supported by any sensible reading of the law doesn’t appear to bother the board or its allies.
In closing, I’d like to address what this all means for the American people and why this hearing is so important.
Across the country, small employers are struggling to grow their businesses and hire new workers. The president has proposed $1.5 trillion in tax hikes that will fall heavily on their shoulders. Federal bureaucrats are crafting more than 200 significant new regulations, some of which will affect these small employers. And now they must contend with a federal board advancing policies that raise the cost of doing business, restrict their right to speak with employees, and undermine commonsense protections for workers.
Why would anyone create a new job in this kind of chilling environment? These are the real headwinds facing our economy. The NLRB’s assault on American workers and job creators is undermining our nation’s ability to grow and prosper. Congress cannot stand by and allow an unelected board to wreak havoc on our workforce. We must stand up and do the job we were sent here to do.