The Horrifying Dramedy of it All – The NLRB’s Next Move

By July 13, 2012Labor Unions

Five years ago, I had occasion to meet former tour player, golf commentator, and raconteur extraordinaire, David Feherty. I had a brief conversation with him about the PGA Tour and some of the personalities inhabiting that world. Phil Mickelson has been my favorite PGA pro for many years, so I asked Feherty why it seems other players, as well as fans, either love or hate Mickelson. With a sparkle in his eye and a gentle Irish brogue, Feherty replied, “You have to understand, Phil’s watching a movie only he can see.”

At the time, I had no idea what he meant. His answer seemed evasive or dismissive of my question. I thought about it for a while afterward. Was he slamming Mickelson? Was he among the Phil-haters?  In time, I realized what he was trying to tell me – and I think it applies in another context: the National Labor Relations Board is watching a different movie.

Where the Board sees an unleveled playing field in which management and or business owners hold all the cards and treat workers unfairly, the rest of us see management, employees and labor organizations working in tandem, trying to solve problems together to run a business efficiently and effectively.  Where the Board sees the need to further divide workers based on job classification, the business community sees the need to maintain a harmonized and cohesive workforce through employees sharing a community of interest.  Where the rest of the business community sees labor law working pretty smoothly and effectively for the past seven decades, the Board sees fit to overturn well-established labor law precedent at will, creating discord and confusion.

I’m not sure what movie the NLRB is watching – or even the genre. What I do know is most business owners and operators are watching what I’ll categorize as a “horror-dramedy.” The horror comes from the fear of not knowing what this group is going to do next. Yesterday’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by William Kilberg, the lead counsel for Boeing during their case against the NLRB, is a perfect example of this great uncertainty created by the board. The drama comes from knowing it will be something, somewhere, sometime. The tragedy is this group thinks what they do has no effect on whether businesses hire new workers.

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