After 78 Years the NLRA Needs a Makeover

Last week marked the seventy-eighth anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing the National Labor Relations Act into law. In that time, it has become clear the Act’s sole purpose is to grant labor unions special privileges which are unavailable to any other private organization or individual.

Famed economist Friedrich A. Hayek best describes the current labor law landscape:

“We have now reached a state where [unions] have become uniquely privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply.”

Of unions’ government granted powers, most notorious are the below sections of the NLRA:

  • Section 9(a) affords labor unions monopoly bargaining power. Meaning unions via government enforcement may force their representation on employees, even if the employee prefers other representation or none at all.
  • Section 8(a)(3) of the NLRA allows unions the ability to compel workers to pay union dues once it becomes the workers exclusive representative and a valid union-security agreement is in place. This section also mandates employers agree to contracts that solidify the forced union dues arrangement once a union has won exclusive representation.

Simply, union authority to force their service on individuals or compel membership payments on those who choose to not associate is inappropriate in a free society.  Until these provisions are repealed, labor law in the U.S. will continue to incur greater injustices on workers than prevent them.

Yet, more recently, unions’ have stretched their powers established under the NLRA to even more frightening levels. Recent judicial decisions have determined that the NLRA preempts certain state laws that outlaw stalking and identity theft.

For example, in Fisher v. Communication Workers of America, the North Carolina Appeals Court ruled the NLRA preempts state law that declares identity theft a criminal offense.

The case involves the Communications Worker of America Local in which its union president John Glenn posted the names and social security numbers of 33 AT&T employees, who chose to revoke their union membership, in a public area at the company’s North Carolina facility.

Initially, the AT&T employees filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board stating they were being coerced into exercising their NLRA section 7 rights, which guarantees employees’ right to self-organization for the purposes of engaging in collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Likewise and just as important, it protects every workers right to refrain from exercising their section 7 rights.

Unsurprisingly, NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon refused to prosecute the CWA for posting and disseminating AT&T employees’ social security numbers.

After that, the employees with legal assistance from the National Right to Work Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit in North Carolina courts under its Identity Theft Protection Act.

However, the employees failed to obtain relief in the state court either. National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix explains:

“Incredibly, both the trial court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals found that the unions are entitled to a special exemption from being penalized for revealing employees’ personal information. Both courts ruled that such trampling of employee rights is an activity that can be covered only by the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, and consequently may not be punished by state authorities.

Imagine that. North Carolina’s courts have held that federal labor law pre-empts a completely unrelated state identity theft law, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that a state retains jurisdiction where the conduct to be regulated touches deeply rooted local interests.

Both courts ruled that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the ITPA. Consequently, union bosses may not be punished by state authorities for exposing the workers’ private information to the public.”

Thankfully, bills have been introduced in Congress to combat this judicial decree and others that have provided unions obscene government granted privileges. On June 20, Representative Tom Price (R-GA) introduced H.R. 2472, Freedom from Union Stalking Act, and H.R. 2473, Freedom from Union Identity Theft Act.

Simply, these bills amend the NLRA to remove any misunderstanding that the NLRA exempts unions from state stalking and identity theft laws.

And as Rep. Tom Price, in a press release introducing the legislation, said, “America’s workers should be able to do their jobs in an environment that is free of intimidation and coercion. Frankly, it is absurd that these practices are not already explicitly outlawed.”