Coalition for a Democratic Workplace Archives - Shopfloor

Arguments Pro and Con on NLRB’s Plan to Allow ‘Micro Unions’

By | Briefly Legal, Labor Unions | 2 Comments

The National Labor Relations Board has posted the amicus briefs submitted in response to the NLRB’s review of a case that the board could use to justify a radical change in labor policy, the authorization of “micro unions.” (See our posts immediately below here and here.)

The case is Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9. The National Association of Manufacturers is a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which submitted its amicus brief in alliance with the HR Policy Association.

To simplify the sides, employers and employer groups believe the NLRB is going too far in turning one specific labor dispute into a broader review of what legitimately constitutes a bargaining unit. Labor unions want a million units to bloom, allowing organizers to pick and choose small groups of employees whom they can more efficiently persuade and pressure into joining a union.

The employer’s brief: Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile

The union’s brief: United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC, i.e., USW

Amicus briefs from labor unions:

Amicus briefs from employer groups:

Submitting a letter were three Republican members of the Senate Heath, Education, Labor and Pensions Comittee: Senators Mike Enzi, Orrin Hatch, Johnny Isakson Read More

Pushing Labor’s Agenda Through the Executive Branch, the NLRB

By | Briefly Legal, General, Labor Unions | One Comment

President Obama visited a Fairfax, Va., family last September to promote his Administration’s agenda before the 2010 elections. Asked about the prospects for passing the Employee Free Choice Act, i.e., card check, the President said [our emphasis]:

Frankly, we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. So the opportunity to actually get this passed right now is not real high. What we’ve done instead is try to do as much as we can administratively to make sure that it’s easier for unions to operate and that they’re not being placed at an unfair disadvantage.

The move (discussed below) by the National Labor Relations Board to redefine acceptable bargaining units and allow “micro unions” sure looks like the President’s plan put into action, doesn’t it? Don’t pass a law, don’t even hold a formal rule-making procedure, just solicit amicus briefs and then issue a ruling that overturns decades of precedent and rewrites labor law.

Three U.S. Senators have registered their objections to the NLRB’s attempt to circumvent the policymaking branch of government, Congress. In a March 8 letter to the board, Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) wrote:

As United States Senators and members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee, we have a vested interest in the outcome of the underlying case. When an independent government agency, acting within its discretion, creates policy that conflicts with federal statute, or attempts to circumvent the legislative or rulemaking process, Congress must weigh in to ensure constitutional boundaries are not crossed. What we have learned from various stakeholders is that the decision in Specialty Healthcare could result in changing the determination of appropriate bargaining units in every workplace under the Board’s jurisdiction. We believe such a major change should only be done by amending the statute, which is the exclusive province of Congress.

The Senators acknowledged that the board can at times change policy through adjudication, i.e., ruling on a case, and it would be appropriate to seek amicus briefs in those circumstances. However, that process should not be a substitute for formal rulemaking, they argued.

The NLRB voted 3-1 to go ahead with its review in the Specialty Healthcare case, with the three votes coming from the Democratic members: Chairman Wilma Liebman, former labor lawyer Mark Pearce, and former SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel Craig Becker, a recess appointee. In his dissent, the sole Republican on the board, Brian Hayes, delineated how the majority’s overreach in entering the policymaking realm. Indeed, neither of the two parties in the case sought the broad review the board is undertaking. Hayes concluded: Read More

NLRB Plan Would Revive Big Labor Through ‘Micro Unions’

By | Briefly Legal, General, Labor Unions | 2 Comments

The National Labor Relations Board is opening the door to a new and radical reinterpretation of labor law, allowing the formation of “micro unions” that could force employers to deal with multiple bargaining units at a single workplace. If the scheme is pushed through, labor organizers could approach small groups of employees to form unions, even though the majority of workers at a job site would oppose unionization. The multiplying of bargaining units at a single business location would create enormous management problems and grant a few employees the ability to disrupt business operations through a labor action. Big Labor loves the idea.

The case, Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile and United Steelworkers, District 9, involves the attempt of the Steelworkers to organize a group of certified nursing assistants at a nursing home. The employer, Specialty Healthcare, maintained that the only appropriate unit consists of all nonprofessional service and maintenance employees.

The NLRB’s Regional Director sided with the Steelworkers, finding the smaller bargaining unit acceptable, and Specialty Healthcare appealed. Rather than rule on its own, the NLRB sent out a request for amicus briefs to comment on what constitutes an appropriate bargaining unit. This unusual step strongly suggests to us that the board’s three-member Democratic majority wants to use the case to overturn precedent and allow creation of these small “micro unions.”

Not surprisingly, the apparent intellectual instigator of this exercise is Craig Becker, the radical labor theoretician and former SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel. (Becker serves on the board as a recess appointment, having failed to win Senate confirmation.) In another NLRB case, Wheeling Island Gaming, Becker argued for letting a casino’s poker dealers form their own bargaining unit, supposedly because they had separate and distinct interests from blackjack dealers and craps and roulette operators. Even his fellow Democratic board members, Chairman Wilma Liebman and former labor lawyer Mark Pearce, thought he went too far. Correction (3:20 p.m.): Chairman Wilma Liebman, a fellow Democrat, and former Republican appointee William Schaumber, disagreed. The NLRB order is here.

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), to which the National Association of Manufacturers, and the HR Policy Association have filed an amicus brief (download here) raising strong objections to any attempt by the NLRB to overturn longstanding precedent. From the CDW’s news release, “Activist NLRB To Hear Case On Special(ty) Interests“:

At issue in Specialty Healthcare is whether Big Labor may organize by cherry picking groups of workers that support the union without providing many co-workers who may oppose the union an opportunity to vote. Such a ruling would reverse over 50 years of standards for bargaining units. Read More

Card Check: The Postcard ‘Alternative’ is a Ploy, a Feint, a Ruse

By | Labor Unions | One Comment

Brian Worth of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace has a letter in The Oregonian newspaper, responding to a columnist who suggested “postcard check” is a legitimate alternative to card check and could possibly be included in a Congressional “compromise” on the spuriously named Employee Free Choice Act.

The column by Jeff Mapes reported that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), elected in November with heavy union backing, had issued a news release decrying the criticism of the mail-in card, comparing the process to the Oregon’s all vote-by-mail elections.

Worth responds (scroll down):

Postcard check’ scheme
There is no comparison between Oregon early voting and congressional efforts to find alternatives to the wildly unpopular card check scheme (“Mail voting proposed in union ‘card check’ fight,” June 4).

The most important distinction is that there’s no ballot involved in the mail-in
card proposal. It merely substitutes the discredited card check ruse with a “postcard check” — a new and equally flawed variation. The postcard check proposal increases the power of the professional union organizer, eviscerates secret ballot elections and further weakens workers’ privacy rights.

Like regular card check, mail-in cards do not provide the guaranteed security and privacy of a voting booth, thus inviting fraud, intimidation and coercion with more visits to workers’ homes by union organizers.

This latest attempt to fix what is wrong with the Employee Free Choice Act opens the door to abuse through ACORN-style campaigning that is prone to fraud and increases the possibility of worker intimidation and coercion. As National Labor Relations Board career staff noted, mail-in cards increase the “potential for interference by any party.”

You can’t fix card check by simply adding postage and this alternative further expands the attack on worker privacy from the workplace to the home.

The National Association of Manufacturers is a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and glad of it.

Card Check: Just Because You Call it a …

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Brian Worth of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace responds to a Washington Post editorial on the Employee Free Choice Act in an op-ed today, “Labor’s Card-Check Ruse“:

Compromise for the sake of compromise often leads to bad public policy, and efforts to reach a compromise on the union “card check” bill fall into this category. The issue here is that unions are declining because they don’t serve the needs of today’s workers, but instead of admitting that, labor is trying to save itself by unfairly changing the rules. While the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace has agreed with The Post’s assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as flawed legislation, we disagree with the premise in the May 11 editorial “The Imperfect Union Bill” that we must accept ill-conceived proposals to appease the notion that a compromise is needed on EFCA.

The National Association of Manufacturers is member of the Coalition, and the group’s website is here.

Filling the Ranks at DOL

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

In the continuing staffing up of Cabinet agencies, the White House last week announced the appointment of Mary Beth Maxwell to be a senior advisor to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, with liaison responsibilities to Vice President Joe Biden’s Middle Class Task Force.

AP summarizes: “President Barack Obama has appointed a key union activist as senior adviser to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, another sign of the influence that organized labor wields in the Obama administration.”

Maxwell has been the executive director of American Rights at Work, a union front group* that has financed much of the advertising in support of the Employee Free Choice Act — or more accurately, attacking business as greedy exploiters of the working man and women. The political scuttlebutt before Solis’ nomination as Labor Secretary was that Maxwell might fill the post. (See this Wall Street Journal blog post.) Solis served on American Rights at Work’s board of directors.

We’re in low, low dudgeon about appointments like Maxwell’s. Of course a Democratic White House is going to put labor allies in positions of power at the Department of Labor. And being named as a liaison to a PR effort looks like the very definition of a sinecure as opposed to being put in a substantive position of power.

* We refer to American Rights at Work as a “union front group” just as a dig. Its hack writers are always referring to the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace as a front group for corporations, etc., when the group — in which the NAM is an active member — is clear about its membership. CDW opposes the Employee Free Choice Act.

If anything, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace should be called a “corporate upfront group.”

* American Rights at Work describes itself as a non-profit. Yes, but the group is also registered as a lobbying organization. See its latest disclosure. So we’ll now call them a “union front group and lobbying outfit.”

Card Check: Abandon the Secret Ballot and Bad Things Happen

By | Economy, Labor Unions | One Comment

So much news and commentary on the deceitful Employee Free Choice Act…

Stuart Taylor of the National Journal is always good, and he capably analyzes labor’s tendentious arguments for the legislation in “How To Deny Employees Free Choice.” A good summary for the uninitiated, and Taylor makes a point about the dynamics of recognition campaigns that unions want the public to ignore:

The complaints about employer propaganda during election campaigns are simply not persuasive. Anti-union propaganda is no less legitimate than pro-union propaganda. One person’s propaganda is another’s free speech. And the labor laws already address the risk of propaganda being tinged with intimidation by placing strict — perhaps unduly strict — limits on employer communications with employees.

Union organizers can approach employees in their homes, in bars, or anywhere else, without the employer’s knowledge, with visions of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Employers, on the other hand, can approach employees only in the workplace, and cannot predict (“threaten”) that they will close up shop if the union wins — no matter how accurate the prediction might be.

Elsewhere, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace — to which the NAM belongs — has highlighted the strange conception James Hoffa of the Teamsters has of democracy. Here’s a Coalition ad:

Blogging at National Review Online’s The Corner, Cesar Conda of Navigators Global, which does CDW communications strategy, observes:

Almost 20 years ago to the day, the Teamsters signed a landmark consent decree with the United States Justice Department to avoid prosecution on Mob-related corruption. The agreement required the Teamsters to institute secret-ballot voting for its president and other senior officers to rid the union of Mob influence. Given the Teamsters’ history with corruption, it is remarkable that James P. Hoffa, the union’s current president who himself has been elected three times by secret ballot, would dismiss the importance of secret-ballot voting to free and fair elections. But last week in a press statement applauding the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act, he did just that when he asked “since when has the secret ballot been a basic tenet of democracy?”

I encourage those with an interest in the card-check debate to review the media’s coverage of the March 1989 settlement between the Teamsters and the Justice Department, and the subsequent coverage of the Teamsters’ first secret ballot presidential election in 1991. The secret-ballot reform was widely hailed by labor experts and editorial pages as a major breakthrough in the labor movement that would make the nation’s largest union more democratic and accountable to its rank and file members. At that time, Dennis Rivera, the head of the New York health-care workers union and the current chairman of the SEIU’s health-care task force, even suggested that federal labor law be changed to require secret-ballot elections of every labor leader in the country. 

The Wall Street Journal notes the bully-boy tactics another union, the SEIU, is employing against members of Congress who refuse to toe labor’s line. From “Unionize or Die“:

The video’s target is Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat who recently declared that he’ll vote against labor’s top priority. The video concludes by calling for Mr. Boren by name to “stop risking workers’ lives” and support the bill. The political ad also serves as a warning to other Democrats in Congress — including Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; Ben Nelson of Nebraska; Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — who haven’t declared how they’ll vote. The message is that if they don’t sign on the SEIU line, they’ll get roughed up, and perhaps face a primary challenge next election.

Propaganda, disparaging of secret-ballot elections, vicious politicking: It’s hard to take seriously labor’s claims to be representing the interests of the employees, any employees.

Card Check: Obama Supporters Are Opposed

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Miami today, following up on Tuesday’s playing of President Obama’s two-week old recorded video message. President Obama just made a passing reference to the Employee Free Choice Act. We’ll see if the Vice President gives it more attention.

In saluting organized labor’s No. 1 legislative priority, the President and Vice President might also want to remember that the public – including Obama supporters – overwhelmingly opposes the Employee Free Choice Act. Recent polling performed by McLaughlin and Associates showed that 73% of Obama voters are opposed to EFCA and 86% of Obama voters believe that a worker’s vote should be kept private in a union organizing election.  81% of these same Obama supporters believe that Congress should focus on other issues like jobs and health care before dealing with EFCA.

In fact, an Obama supporter just wrote a strongly worded letter to the editor in a Pennsylvania newspaper highlighting his concerns by asserting:

If workers decide to unionize, that is their right. The laws can be modified to make it easier to unionize. But, the secret ballot should never be sacrificed! If we are to remain the greatest and the most productive country in the world, the rights of American workers must continue to include the secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize.

Publicizing Labor Votes Violates Workers’ Privacy

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Brian Worth, chairman of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (the NAM is a member), responds to the op-ed by UAW’s Ron Gettelfinger we wrote about below.

From today’s Detroit News, “Publicizing labor votes violates workers’ privacy

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger crossed the line when he injected race into the debate over whether American workers should have the right to vote in private during union organizing elections (“Worker rights bill deserves debate, vote,” Feb. 6). By comparing opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act to the Southern senators who blocked civil rights legislation in the 1960s, Gettelfinger undermines his own credibility and does a disservice to the labor movement.

Let’s be clear about what the Employee Free Choice Act does. The bill would replace secret ballot elections with a card check scheme where the votes of workers would be made public to their employers, co-workers and union organizers.

Without the protection of the secret ballot, there would be no guarantee that workers could express their true wishes on the personal decision of whether to have a union in their workplace. Labor leaders want Congress to pass card check because the bill will make it easier for labor organizers to recruit workers into joining unions.

But the American people, including rank-and-file union members, understand the importance of the secret ballot and are opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act by overwhelming margins.

In a recent poll conducted for the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, 73 percent of union workers opposed the proposal. This helps explain why President Barack Obama has backed away from card check in recent weeks and why Gettelfinger is desperately playing the race card to defend it.

That’s right. The political support for the Employee Free Choice Act is weaker than advocates hoped for. (See this Hill article, “Contentious labor bill struggles behind the scenes“)

Besides being an odious line of argument, Gettelfinger’s rhetoric is also foolish in the big political picture. The UAW is a supplicant right now, asking members of Congress for help in supporting the domestic auto manufacturers. It’s not smart politics to be arguing, “Hey, you Senators! You unreconstructed Dixiecrat racists — Give us money!”

Antidisestablishmentarianism, Union Style

By | Labor Unions | No Comments

Or more like re-establishmentarianism…

In a basic, thorough examination of organized labor’s push for the Employee Free Choice Act and business’ resistance, Bloomberg ends its story with an interesting claim from Richard Trumka, treasurer of the AFL-CIO. From Labor Seeks Obama Help in Battle With Business Over Organizing“:

“Unlike in the past, instead of saying `OK, we’ve elected you, now do what’s right by us,’ we are going to keep our machinery in place,” Trumka said. “We are going to make sure that our interests are considered at the front of the parade.”

Keep our machinery in place? Certainly hope that doesn’t mean in place, institutionally, at the Department of Labor.

Meanwhile, in the Las Vegas Review Journal, local business talks. From “Election result rekindles card-check debate“:

When members of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs committee met Thursday morning, the Obama-supported Employee Free Choice Act proved a hot topic.

The proposed federal law would replace secret-ballot unionizing elections with face-to-face card-check procedures, and both unions and businesses agree it would make organizing workers easier than it is today.

“We’re really worried about the way the law is written,” said Steve Hill, a member of the committee who’s also incoming chamber chairman and president and chief executive officer of concrete company Silver State Materials. “It has not reached the level of attention it needs. It’s been discussed and killed (in Congress), and people don’t know it’s still out there. We need to do a better job getting word out that it’s a possibility, and tell businesses what it means to them.”

After all the work the NAM and our members have put into explaining the fundamental anti-democratic nature of the Employee Free Choice Act, it’s a little discouraging to read our friends in business say, “It has not reached the level of attention it needs.” Steve, we’re working, honestly!

But he’s probably right. People only have so much time to follow issues — even important ones like how labor markets are structured — and “card check” is not a self-explanatory term.

Still, seems like we’re making progress. The union, American Rights at Work, released carefully scrubbed results and predictable commentary on a post-election survey of U.S. Senate elections in which the Employee Free Choice Act was an issue. Check out this comment from the executive summary from Peter D. Hart Research Associates:

Voters in Senate battleground states who voted for the anti-Employee Free Choice Act candidate overwhelmingly describe their vote as being FOR (67%) that candidate rather than AGAINST (28%) the pro-Employee Free Choice Act candidate who was the target of negative advertising. If the attacks on supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act had made a significant impact, we would expect the proportion of voters saying they cast their ballot against those supporters to be higher.

Twenty-eight percent of those who voted against the candidate who supported the Employee Free Choice Act did so BECAUSE of the candidate’s position? That’s huge, a reflection of an informed electorate, educated through the advertising of groups like the NAM-supported Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.

If in promoting a survey designed to show that voters supported pro-union candidates American Rights at Work has to admit that 28 percent of the votes against their candidate were influenced by the Employee Free Choice Act, well…think of the results they didn’t release.