National Labor Policy Increasingly Grants Big Labor Privileges as Union Membership Declines

A recent press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the percentage of American workers in labor unions dropped again. In 2014, only 11.1 percent of all workers belonged to a union, a slight decline from 2013.

Even though the vast majority of workers continually choose to refuse union representation, the Obama administration continues to grant labor unions privileges above and beyond those enjoyed by other organizations or individuals.

In just the past year, the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board has overturned legal precedent and issued regulations that greatly advantages unions at the expense of worker freedom and employer control over their business. Below are just a few examples.

In Purple Communications, the Board reversed its 2007 decision, in Register Guard, to allow union organizing activity on employer email systems. Prior to last year, an employer had the right to determine how its email system was used. In essence, the NLRB has ruled that an employer does not have the right to control the use of its property.

Another NLRB decision from last year, Durham School Services, the Board ruled that unions’ use of misrepresentation and deception during a union organizing campaign is acceptable (read more here).

Issuing decisions is just one avenue that the Board used to privilege labor unions. At the end of 2014, the NLRB promulgated a rule that dramatically changes how union elections are conducted. This expansive regulation diminishes worker privacy and the time employees have to educate themselves on the pros and cons of union representation.

One aspect of the rule requires employers to provide union organizers with employees’ telephone numbers, personal email addresses, work schedules, and locations. The rule does not allow employees who oppose their private information being shared with the union to opt-out. Further, this rule, almost undoubtedly, will subject workers to harassment, intimidation, and identity theft.

The NLRB’s amendments to the rules governing union elections also minimizes the time workers have to educate themselves on union representation. Specifically, the NLRB’s final rule would shorten the time frame from the filing of a petition and the date on which an election is conducted to as few as 14 days.

Only allowing a couple of weeks from petition to election stands in contrast to the “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate” regarding unionization Congress envisioned when enacting the National Labor Relations Act. The rule is deliberately constructed to limit debate. As William Messenger explained in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce, “because the union initiates an organizing campaign and controls the timing of the filing of the election petition, employees will doubtlessly be fully exposed to union blandishments and propaganda. Unions will have their literature and talking points prepared and disseminated in advance of requesting any election. But employees will have little opportunity to hear opposing viewpoints.”

With union membership declining from 20.1 percent in 1983 to only 11.1 percent today, it is time to reevaluate federal labor policy that places union interests above workers and employers. An easy way to start, and something the new Congress should consider, is to pass the Employee Rights Act that reforms the NLRA so that union privilege is reduced and worker choice increases.