Unionization by Regulation: House Oversight Committee Seeks Answers from Politicized NLRB, NMB

As unions continue to decline in their private sector membership, union leaders are seeking political solutions to their problems. President Obama will need organized labor’s support for his reelection campaign, and thus has good reason to stay on unions’ good side. His administration has been pushing unionization through regulation — enacting regulatory changes favoring unionization without input from Congress.

Two key agencies in this effort are the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the National Mediation Board (NMB). The NLRB supervises the National Labor Relations Act, which covers labor relations for most private sector employees, and the NMB does the same for the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which covers railroad and airline employees.

The NLRB is threatening to sue Boeing for building a new a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, as well as four states — Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah — for enacting amendments to their constitution that protect secret ballots in union organizing elections. Boeing’s South Carolina plant is new and was built to add to its capacity for building its new 787 Dreamliner; it was not built to shift production from the company’s unionized Puget Sound facilities.

A year ago, the NMB changed RLA voting rules from requiring a union to win a majority of votes in a bargaining unit to be certified as its monopoly bargaining representative to a majority of votes cast, which made it possible for a union to become certified with only a minority of bargaining unit members voting for it. (The FAA Reauthorization Bill, passed by the House on April 1, restores the old rule, but the bill still needs to go through conference committee.)

Now some Republican House members are trying to look into the politicization of these agencies.

On May 12, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), along with Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), wrote to NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, requesting documents pertaining to its lawsuit threats against Boeing and the four states with secret ballot amendments — including any communications with union officials.

And yesterday, Reps. Issa and Ross wrote to NMB Chairman Harry Hoglander, requesting documents related the NMB’s change of the RLA voting rule — also including communications with union officials.

The NMB documents are due to Committee on May 24, and the NLRB documents on May 27. It will be an interesting June.