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Roe Statement: Hearing on "What Should Workers and Employers Expect Next From the National Labor Relations Board?”

Four years ago, the Obama administration promised the start of “recovery summer.” The American people were told at the time the nation was about to enter a period of strong growth and job creation. We know four years later that simply wasn’t the case. Instead of a robust recovery, the nation continued to struggle with a jobs crisis that is hurting working families to this day.

It has taken five years to simply regain the jobs lost as a result of the recent recession – making this the slowest recovery in our nation’s history. On the current path, it will take four more years before we close what’s known as the jobs gap, the number of jobs destroyed by the recession plus the number of jobs we need to simply keep pace with population growth. Four years after the so-called “recovery summer” and roughly 10 million Americans are still searching for work, including more than 3 million Americans who have been out of a job for six months or longer.

When the focus should be on developing bipartisan solutions that will help put people back to work, the Obama administration has spent most of its time promoting a partisan agenda at the behest of powerful special interests. That has certainly been the case with the National Labor Relations Board.

In response to a steady decline in its membership, union bosses have increasingly relied on federal agencies to tilt the balance of power in their favor. The NLRB is at the center of this effort, promoting a culture of union favoritism that makes it virtually impossible for employers and workers to resist union pressure.

Under President Obama’s watch, the board has restricted access to the secret ballot, advanced an ambush election rule that will stifle employer free speech and cripple worker free choice, and begun to bless micro unions that will tie employers up in union red tape while undermining employee freedom in the workplace. The NLRB even went so far as to try and dictate where a private employer could and could not create jobs. I could go on and on.

Additionally, there are cases before the board right now that threaten to further stack the deck in favor of the administration’s union allies. For example, the board has requested feedback on how to determine joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. A standard has been in place for 30 years to determine when two employers share immediate and direct control over essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, and supervision. This isn’t a new concept, so the board’s recent solicitation is highly suspect and strongly suggests it’s eager to abandon existing policies in favor of a new standard more favorable to union interests.

The board may also be looking for ways to give union organizers greater access to employer property, most notably employers’ email systems. The board has always instructed employers that any policy limiting the use of work email must be enforced in a non-discriminatory way, which means employers cannot treat unions any differently than other non-charitable organizations. This provides employers a clear standard to follow and union organizers a level playing field to work on. It’s likely the current board majority will seek to impose a fundamentally different approach, one that would give union organizers practically unfettered access to employers’ email systems.

On their own these may seem like relatively minor issues. However, they are part of a larger pattern that is generating a lot of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety in workplaces across the country. Every member of this committee supports the right of workers to freely choose whether or not to join a union. It is ultimately a decision that rests with each and every individual worker; federal policymakers don’t have the authority to make that choice for them. Today’s hearing is part of the committee’s continued oversight of the NLRB, but more importantly, part of our commitment to defending the rights of workers and employers.


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