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ICYMI: Restore common sense to the workplace

By Randy Johnson and Glenn Spencer

In Missouri and beyond, businesses stand eager to expand job growth, seek out new opportunities, and in the process, create better prospects for American workers. However, after eight years of Washington, D.C., policies that worked against employers, there’s a lot of regulatory red tape to clear out of the way.

The previous administration meddled with one cornerstone of the economy in particular: the workplace. And the National Labor Relations Board — the agency that oversees union elections and investigates alleged unfair labor practices — was one of the most aggressive regulators of all. Rather than act as an impartial enforcer of the law, the President Obama-era board carried out a one-sided agenda aimed at growing labor unions at any cost.

For starters, the NLRB drastically shortened the time frame for a workplace unionization vote to as few as 10 days. This “ambush election” rule denies workers the opportunity to get complete information about the pros and cons of joining a union and makes it harder for employers, particularly small businesses, to respond to a union organizing campaign. Worse still, the rule requires employers to turn over to union organizers personal information about their workers, including their schedules, phone numbers, and email and home addresses.

Next, the agency rewrote the rulebook on what groups of workers can form a union. In fact, the NLRB allowed unions to organize tiny pockets of workers — known as “micro unions” — even in workplaces where the majority of employees opposed union representation. As just one example, the NLRB permitted a union consisting of just the cosmetic and fragrance salespeople at a Macy’s department store, even though most of the store’s 150 employees didn’t want a union in their workplace.

Pushing its authority further still, the board even aggressively claimed jurisdiction over labor practices on Indian tribal lands, undermining tribal sovereignty and depriving the tribes of the ability to run their own economies.

Perhaps worst of all, the NLRB blurred the definition of what the word “employer” even means. By rewriting the so-called “joint employer” standard, the NLRB tried to hold businesses involved in franchising or subcontracting liable for workplaces they don’t control and workers they don’t employ. This liability-expanding policy might create more jobs — but only for trial lawyers and government enforcers.

These are just a few examples of the opportunity-killing policy shifts pursued by the Obama-era NLRB. Small businesses in Missouri and elsewhere paid the price. But Congress and the board now have an opportunity to restore balance and common sense to the workplace. 

First, there is a new majority on the NLRB that can begin unwinding the harmful policies of the past eight years.

Second, Congress can vote on legislation that has already been introduced in the House of Representatives to ensure that actions by the new NLRB are enshrined into law. The “Save Local Business Act” would re-establish the common-sense notion that two businesses are only “joint employers” if both exercise direct control over the same workers — meaning that both take actions like hiring, paying and disciplining them.

Another bill, the “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” would provide additional time for workers to learn all the facts about unionization before an election takes place. The bill states that no election shall take place earlier than 35 days after an election petition is filed. The legislation would also toss out the NLRB’s “micro union” decision, and return to the long-held standard for collective bargaining units that actually represent the majority of employees at a workplace.

The [“Employee Privacy Protection Act”] would allow workers, not the NLRB, to choose the means by which they wish to be contacted by a union during an organizing campaign.

Finally, the “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act” would affirm the rights of Indian tribal employers to govern their own labor practices on their own lands.

So Missouri’s elected officials have a chance to help small businesses, and create a better climate for job growth. They should seize the opportunity and stand with employers by paring back the regulatory agenda of the Obama-era NLRB.

Randy Johnson is senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, and Glenn Spencer is vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

To read online, click here.

To learn more about the Save Local Business Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/jointemployer.