Unions’ Shifting Lame Duck and NLRB Agenda

With Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives and a substantial number of seats in the Senate, organized labor’s hopes of seeing its legislative agenda enacted are fading fast. But that won’t keep union bosses from trying, in two ways. First, a last-ditch push in the current lame-duck session of Congress; and second, shifting efforts away from the legislative to the regulatory process, specifically in the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Thankfully, this shift in union strategy is getting some public attention — and more is needed.

In Congress, Big Labor’s allies are most likely to focus on passing bills bailing out underfunded union pensions and forcibly unionizing state and local government public safety employees. As my colleague F. Vincent Vernuccio and I noted recently in Forbes regarding the proposed bailout:

During the lame duck session, the main Big Labor priority to watch out for is a union pension bailout. Introduced in the House (Create Jobs and Save Benefits Act, H.R. 3936) by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and in the Senate (Create Jobs and Save Benefits Act, S. 3157) by Rep. Robert Casey (D-Penn.), this legislation would create a new fund within the Pension Benefit Guaranty CorporationGRTYA.PK – news people ) (PBGC), through which it would direct taxpayer dollars to shore up some underfunded union pension plans. The use of public funds to insure private pension plans is a first for PBGC and stark departure from the way it has operated since its creation in 1974.

Earl Pomeroy lost his reelection bid, which makes the prospects for his legislation dim. However, just because unions lost one champion of this legislation does not mean they cannot find another. Pomeroy was an odd sponsor of such legislation anyway; unions are not exactly political powerhouses in North Dakota, which is a right to work state.

The so-called Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S. 3194, H.R. 413) would corral public safety — police, firefighter, and EMT personnel — into unions. For organized labor, this may be its best option for a long-term growth strategy, now that more union members works for governments than for private businesses. But states and cities struggling to balance their overstretched budgets, higher labor costs is the last thing they need. As National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix notes in The Washington Examiner:

Last year, even as the nation’s economy endured a severe recession, state and local employee real compensation rose by nearly 3 percent. Meanwhile, businesses whose revenues were plummeting had no choice but to cut back real compensation for private-sector employees by 4 percent.

Incredibly, Reid and many likeminded senators and representatives now appear eager to put an even more onerous burden on private-sector employees and employers so that already bloated unionized government payrolls can keep expanding.

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act would force countless policemen, firefighters and emergency medical technicians to accept as their monopoly-bargaining agent a union they never voted for, and want nothing to do with. All contrary state laws and local policies would be overridden.

Even in many states that already authorize public-safety union monopolies, the bill would widen their scope. That’s why the vast majority of the 50 states will be forced either to rewrite their public-sector labor statutes, or hand over control of their public-safety officers to the federal government, if it becomes law.

Moreover, as former Service Employees International Union second-in-command Anna Burger has boasted, it would “create a national collective,” i.e. monopoly, “bargaining standard for all [state and local] public workers.”

Meanwhile, the fight over card check and other pro-union legislation is shifting to the NLRB, where Board members Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce — both recess-appointed by President Obama — are likely to push Big Labor’s agenda. As Katie Gage of the Workforce Fairness Institute notes in The Daily Caller:

Recently, the NLRB has taken action to favor labor bosses over employees and employers. Obama’s appointees to the board are carrying Big Labor’s water, and our freedoms and jobs are at risk.

Cases that have been decided and closed for years are now being reopened by these new board members, who aim to change pro-worker and pro-small business decisions into pro-union boss ones.

For example, most recently, the board backed unions in their practice of holding protest signs at small businesses who use contract workers, claiming that the signs are not coercive.

In addition, the NLRB is now considering implementing electronic voting services for remote elections as opposed to worksite elections where physical ballots are both cast and counted, a move that would open elections to potential fraud and workers to intimidation.

And now there is discussion that this “independent federal agency” will shorten the amount of time for workplace elections even though most take place within a month. While Big Labor bosses could begin planning and organizing months ahead of an election being called, small business owners could be caught unaware and have only a few days to make their case to their own employees.

The lame-duck session ends next month, but Becker’s and Pearce’s recess appointments run through the end of the next session of Congress, so they’ll be on the Board through 2011. The NLRB bears watching.

For more on labor, see here and here.