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NLRB: Destroying Opportunity Since 2009

The Obama National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is always finding new ways to make it harder for workers to succeed. In recent years, there have been “ambush” elections and job-destroying micro-unions, diktats to private businesses on where to create jobs, and restrictions on the right to secret ballot elections. We could go on, and sadly, it looks like the NLRB is just getting warmed up.

This week, the partisan NLRB created another hurdle for workers trying to climb the economic ladder — particularly those already struggling to find full-time jobs. The board’s ruling in Miller & Anderson is part of a larger effort to expand the power of union bosses by redefining what it means to be an employer.

It began last year when the board overturned a long-standing joint-employer standard in order to hold employers legally responsible for employees they do not have direct control over. Now, the board is empowering labor leaders to organize — into a single union — workers who do not share the same employer. As a Wall Street Journal editorial explains:

The hits keep coming from the National Labor Relations Board … The 3-1 majority’s decision in Miller & Anderson, Inc. overturns the board’s 2004 precedent that required a union seeking to represent workers at a supplier and contracting firm to obtain the consent of both employers. Unions will now be able to easily combine workers solely employed by one business with those joint-employed by another, thereby increasing their negotiating leverage.

A union could seek to represent regular workers at, say, Microsoft alongside temporary tech workers supplied by another firm. The temp agency could be dragged into collective-bargaining disputes involving the corporation’s workers and slapped with unfair labor practice charges if it refuses to negotiate.

Likewise, firms that use temp agencies or subcontractors (e.g., cleaning, security, hospitality) could be required to collectively bargain with workers that they use only for short durations. Even after the temp workers leave, the company is stuck with the union and its labor contract.

So what does all this mean? We know — it’s a complicated issue. It’s tough enough for experienced lawyers to wrap their heads around this one. But that’s the point. The NLRB has created another confusing labor rule that will cause employers to think twice before hiring. Many employers will decide it’s too complicated and too risky to do business with a local temp agency or subcontractor.

Who will lose? Workers. This anemic economy has left millions of Americans out of work or taking part-time hours when they need full-time jobs. Often a temporary position is the only way to rejoin the workforce. In return, workers earn a paycheck and acquire new skills as they search for the long-term job they desperately need.

Unfortunately, the NLRB is threatening to take away what is for some workers the last option they have. More union red tape will lead to fewer opportunities for those workers who need a job the most. Again, as the Wall Street Journal notes:

The union goal is to discourage businesses from using temp agencies and subcontractors. However, the result will be a less flexible workforce.

Americans have been waiting more than seven years for the Obama administration to focus on policies that would restore opportunity and upward mobility. Instead, they’ve experienced seven years of the exact opposite, and this week was no different at the NLRB. There is a better way.

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