Economy, Regs, & Taxes

NLRB Seeks Unprecedented Expansion of Union Power

The board is looking to give unions a veto over employer location decisions.

Apr. 9, 2014

Unions have a long and proud history in the United States, where they have helped improve working conditions and workers’ rights. Many union members are hard workers and very good at what they do. But unions are also some of the government’s biggest cronies, and they almost exclusively stump for and donate to Democrats. Yet Big Labor has also been losing membership for decades. In fact, membership is now about a quarter of what it was during the Carter administration. Naturally, that has unions circling the wagons and trying to protect their turf.

Cue the National Labor Relations Board that Barack Obama stacked with his preferred nominees by using “recess” appointments – a move, by the way, that the Supreme Court will either validate or strike down with a ruling expected in June. Richard Griffin, general counsel of the NLRB, is looking to grant unions an unprecedented say regarding employers’ relocation decisions.

Former NLRB chairman Peter Schaumber, a Bush appointee, explains, “Under current law, it is perfectly legal for a unionized employer to relocate some or all of its facilities and eliminate bargaining-unit work if the move is motivated by economic gain – not by a desire to retaliate against employees for their union activities and support. A desire to escape the consequences of unionization, particularly high labor costs, is considered an independent, innocent motivation, not an unlawful one. Big Labor loathes this law; Griffin intends to help unions nullify it. … Griffin intends to change this law by making bargaining mandatory.” In essence, the proposed change will empower a union to veto a company’s move.

The change is problematic for many reasons, one of which is Supreme Court precedent. The Court has previously ruled, “Bargaining over management decisions that have a substantial impact on the continued availability of employment should be required only if the benefit, for labor-management relations and the collective-bargaining process, outweighs the burden placed on the conduct of business.”

To change this protocol, as Griffin and the NLRB seek to do, will benefit unions often at the expense of employers and the economy as a whole – all for political gain. As Schaumber sums it up, “It is the price we pay when control of a small but important federal agency is turned over to political appointees who are unable to fairly balance the interests of those it is charged with regulating and protecting.”

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