Defund the Partisan NLRB

One of the primary objectives of the National Labor Relations Act is to remedy the perceived “inequality of bargaining power” between employees and employers. However, the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA, has tilted the playing field too far in favor of labor unions by bestowing upon them greater bargaining power than employees or employers.

Evidence is aplenty that the NLRB acts as a stooge for organized labor at the expense of equality in bargaining power. The recently implemented ambush election rule is front and center.

The NLRB regulation threatens workers’ freedom of association and privacy, while also hindering employers’ abilities to communicate with employees on the impact of unionization in the workplace (see the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Agenda for Congress for more detail on the negative impact of ambush elections on independent employees).

As I previously mentioned:

Not only does the ambush election rule allow workers little time to make a decision that will affect their wages and work environment, it also seriously threatens worker privacy. It compels employers to provide employees’ contact information to union organizers, including personal cell phone numbers, email addresses, and work schedules—without an opt-out provision for those who prefer not to share personal data.

Another example of the NLRB working toward increasing labor union bargaining power is its attempt to weaken right-to-work laws. Although RTW laws have freed workers from being forced to pay dues to an unwanted union for nearly 70 years and these laws have been held up by federal courts, the Obama NLRB has invited amicus briefs that could take away worker protection from compulsory dues payments.

In the case before the NLRBUnited Steel, Paper and Forestry  Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, Local 1192 (Buckeye Florida) (12-CB-109654), the union raised the issue that it believes the Board should allow unions to force nonunion members to pay for grievance processing in RTW states.

If the NLRB acts in its usual pro-union manner there is no doubt that the union request will be granted, the rule will be adopted, and RTW laws will be severely weakened.

The NLRB action is unwarranted because unions easily could stop having to process nonmembers grievances if they simply negotiated members-only contracts with employers, but, obviously, unions prefer acting as exclusive representatives of all workers and having a monopoly over the workforce.

As the National Right to Work Committee explains:

It is well understood in Labor Law that union officers “own the grievance process.” In fact, in all grievance proceedings union officers must be allowed to participate and have the “right” to reject any grievance resolution that may conflict with the existing contract. Moreover, in many grievance procedures, only the union can file appeals. Now, the NLRB wants to force non-members to pay for this forced unionism power.

The above NLRB actions are just a couple of the many examples of the Board under the Obama administration acting as an active proponent of labor unions.

To remedy the union-bias exhibited by the NLRB, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) has introduced legislation that would “prohibit any appropriation of funds for the National Labor Relations Board.”

However, Rep. Salmon’s bill would likely share the fate of Congress’ attempt to block the NLRB ambush election rule, which ended in a presidential veto, the idea is on the right track.

As research conducted by former NLRB member John Radabaugh shows, the NLRB is doing less work while its budget continues to increase.

Raudabaugh report notes, “Since 1980, fiscal year total case intake (representation cases and unfair labor practice cases) is down 58%; published decisions are down 85%; appropriations in 2014 dollars are up 98%.”

In a recent Senate Appropriations hearing, the NLRB is, again, asking for more funds. Specifically, the NLRB’s proposed budget asks for 30 more full-time employees and an overall increase in funding.

Funny thing, the NLRB could easily increase its staffing level. As is, the NLRB has employees that spend thousands of hours annually on federal government union business instead of processing cases or conducting union elections. The subsidy to government unions is known as union official time, which allows union members to conduct union business instead of federal government work while still paid by the taxpayer. In addition, it is important to note that the NLRB has one of the highest rates, hours per employee, of union official time use in the federal government.

For example, in FY 2012 and FY 2011, the latest years union official time data is available, the NLRB spent $736,128.55 and $768,465.14 on official time and employees hours used were 12,374.00 and 12,911.00.

Instead of increasing NLRB funding year-in and year-out, Congress should appropriate less money by eliminating union official time and end funds that support the NLRB’s clear bias actions like its ambush election rule.

Congress created the NLRB to act as a neutral arbiter in labor disputes and, as shown, the agency governing national labor policy has strayed far from Congress’ intent.

So the question is, why should the public pay hundreds of millions of dollars, $274,224,000 most recently, in tax dollars for an agency that widens inequality in bargaining power and confers benefit to a narrow, private interest?

We shouldn’t. The NLRB should be defunded and tasks transferred to a newly created Article III federal district court for workplace disputes.