The NLRB and the Department of Labor: Exemplars of Activist Bureaucracy

When one thinks of American bureaucracy, notions of political neutrality, professionalism, and disinterested arbitration come to mind. Well, maybe not… but at least those are the notions that progressives would like you to hold.

In fact, the opposites are often true, especially in the area of labor. During the Obama administration, both the Department of Labor and the NLRB have shown time and again that they are progressive allies through and through:

The NLRB has set a controversial new trend of ruling that employees have the right to be disrespectful to their fellow employees and must even be reinstated after their employers fired them for profanity-laced outbursts at fellow employees.

The reasoning behind these bizarre rulings? The employees’ misconduct was not as severe as threatening to kill someone or intentionally striking a supervisor with a vehicle.

Setting the bar that high (or that low, rather) for an employee’s dismissal is definitely questionable but, even worse, the NLRB has also ruled that an employee must be reinstated after he went to a local newspaper and made disparaging remarks about his employer after the employer dismissed him for violating employee protocols on multiple occasions.

On April 30, 2009, the NLRB ruled that the Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel and Towers violated Section 8(1)(a) when they suspended 77 employees for conducting an on-site work stoppage to protest a grievance. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the NLRB’s ruling by pointing out that the company had an open door policy for resolving group grievances and, in light of that, an on-site work stoppage was a completely inappropriate form of protest.

Interestingly enough, the NLRB has established a criterion for ruling against on-site work stoppages: as long as there is a previously established grievance procedure for the employees, employers’ private property rights takes precedent over an on-site work stoppage.

So why did the NLRB overrule the United States Court of Appeals? It’s hard to tell – all they say in their decision is that, “Weighing the 4th factor, the judge found that the employees were given no opportunity to present their grievance.” This is suspicious, given that, in fact, there does exist a grievance procedure for employees at the LAX Hilton Hotel and Towers.

The NLRB has also shown blatant union favoritism in a dispute between disgruntled Brooklyn condo workers and the union they were trying to decertify. The NLRB ruled that the condo workers had to pay another full year of dues because they submitted the decertification paperwork too early.

As for the Department of Labor, it seems that even maintaining the guise of political neutrality is of little concern to them, as they advocate a $10.10 minimum wage hike on the front page of their website, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of economists say that minimum wage hikes hurt the economy. The Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, decries an uncooperative Congress, saying, “…Congress continues to choose obstruction over action…a minority of senators blocked a federal minimum wage increase embraced by a majority of Americans.”

Perez also praises the gain of 288,000 jobs in April, but conveniently disregards the fact that 800,000 people have stopped looking for work in an economy that struggles to regain its health under the oppressive burden of $1.8 trillion per year in compliance costs from federal regulations, courtesy of the Obama administration.

The Washington Post notes,

…The nation’s workforce shrank by more than 800,000 workers in April, sending the labor force participation rate plummeting 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent. The Labor Department said most of that decline was due to fewer people joining the workforce.

“People are not giving up in the labor force,” asserts Perez. That claim seems silly: if fewer people are joining the workforce, it’s probably because people are giving up on looking for jobs.

The Obama-appointed NLRB and Department of Labor are hopelessly biased in favor of their progressive allies and serve as prime examples of activist, partisan bureaucracies which obviously care more about catering to their friends than serving as disinterested, politically neutral arbiters. They are simply two of many examples of the harmful effects of uncontrolled bureaucracy. The incompetence and intense partisanship of the NLRB and the Department of Labor are perfect arguments for why Congress must curtail the overgrown administrative state.

For more on activist bureaucracy, click here to read about the State Department’s attempt to intimidate Nissan into unionizing.