NLRB: Preserving the Right to Vote

By October 3, 2007Labor Unions

A recent tactic by labor unions wanting to unionize a company is to demonize management and the company, bullying them into accepting a “neutrality agreement,” that is, not to challenge the union’s organizing efforts and, often in addition, to accede to a “card-check” certification process. You can understand, if not endorse, an employer’s thinking: “We’re being creamed in the media. My kids are asking me why I’m so mean, and my neighbors won’t talk to me. And it’ll cost me $500 to get the scratches repainted on my car. Maybe if we go along with this neutrality, the unions will lay off.”

That’s not the only circumstance, granted. It may just be that a company views unionization as likely to occur, so wants to make the process as streamlined as possible. Or even has a good relationship with the union in question and wants to foster good ties. But the first scenario is the more common one.

And in agreeing to neutrality, one wonders whether businesses aren’t leaving their employees in a lurch, at least those who don’t want to join a union and who were counting on a fair election to represent the majority view of their co-workers. (National Right to Work Foundation has a good fact page on neutrality agreements.)

All of this in way of explaining why this is such good news:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employees who don’t want to be unionized have 45 days to build up support for a government-monitored decertification vote even if a company agrees to a card check campaign and the union wins, the National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday.

In a 3-2 vote, the NLRB decided to give anti-union employees a chance to object to unionization and demand a secret ballot election even if the company agreed to a card check campaign on formation of a union.

Employers have the right to demand a secret ballot election when their workers seek to organize a union. But in some cases, the company agrees to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers at a plant sign cards authorizing the union’s representation.

Previous NLRB policy was that decertification petitions were banned for a “reasonable” amount of time if a company voluntarily agreed to a card check process.

However, “we conclude that the current recognition bar doctrine should be modified to provide greater protection for employees’ statutory right of free choice,” said NLRB chair Robert J. Battista and members Peter Carey Schaumber and Peter N. Kirsanow in the Sept. 29 decision.

The NLRB stood up for the rights of employees who do not want to be forced into a union and removed — if only at the margins — the incentives for organized labor to engage in the corporate campaigns that attack a company’s reputation.

The NLRB’s news release and ruling are available here. Three-to-two decision. That margin could change easily enough, depending on the voters.

(Hat tip to Jim Gray.)

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