National Right to Work Committee Leader Decries Out-of-Control NLRB
(Source: July 2015 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)
On June 3, the U.S. House’s Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to document what the panel majority recognizes as an “ongoing assault” on Right to Work that is being perpetrated by President Barack Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The hearing’s primary aim was to assess the repercussions for employees in Right to Work states if the NLRB overturns more than six decades of legal precedents regarding the workplace grievance privileges union officials wield under federal labor law.
Since mid-April, Obama-selected Chairman Mark Pearce and other zealous union-monopoly proponents on the NLRB have been openly considering wholesale “reinterpretations” of two federal labor-law provisions: Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act and Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the National Labor Relations Act.
Taken together, these “reinterpretations” would empower union bosses to force union nonmembers to pay fees to get their workplace grievances processed — fees that could be as high as or even exceed full union dues.
As National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix explained in his testimony to the panel, forced fees for grievances would hand union officials a new and destructive tool to eviscerate current protections for employee freedom of choice in the 25 Right to Work states.
Federal Courts Have Long Recognized That Union Bosses Own the Grievance Process
In legal terms, a workplace “grievance” refers to an employee’s claim that he or she has been harmed by a misapplication or a misinterpretation of a company policy.
In unionized workplaces, a grievance by any front-line employee cannot be addressed in any way that is inconsistent with the contract between the company and Big Labor bosses exercising monopoly-bargaining privileges.
And federal courts and the NLRB alike have long recognized that union kingpins effectively own the process through which such grievances are handled.
For that reason, both courts and the NLRB have up to now consistently barred union bosses from imposing forced grievance fees on union nonmembers.
But this spring, the Obama NLRB issued a “call for briefs” signaling its intent to reverse board and court precedents going back to 1953 in a move designed to fulfill the union hierarchy’s decades-old dream of gutting state Right to Work laws.
Mr. Mix forthrightly explained to the Education and the Workforce Committee members why Congress must “prevent the NLRB from implementing” this “reckless and biased scheme”:
“Workers deserve the right to choose for themselves whether a union’s services are good enough to earn their support.
“Union monopoly power means workers are forced to go to the union in a grievance, just as they are forced to let the union ‘represent’ them in anything else about their job. It’s wrong to force people to pay for representation they do not want and believe they would be better off without.”
He added: “History has shown that union officials all too often initiate on-the-job discrimination, which forces a worker into the grievance process the union bosses control, in order to punish him or her for not joining the union in the first place.”
‘This, Simple, One-Page Bill Would Free Millions’
Mr. Mix called on Congress to stop the Obama NLRB in its tracks by “prohibiting it from spending any money” on cases that challenge the board’s 1976 ruling in Machinists, Local 697 and other precedents that bar forced fees for grievances.
In addition, Mr. Mix prodded Capitol Hill leadership to take up pending legislation that would repeal all the provisions in federal labor law that authorize forced union dues and fees:
“[T]he National Right to Work Act [S.391/H.R.612] . . . was introduced in Congress earlier this year” in both the House and the Senate.
“This simple, one-page bill would free millions of American workers from the shackles of compulsory unionism.”
Facing off against Right to Work advocates at the House hearing were two union-label academics, Robert Bruno of the La Grange, Ill.-based Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Elise Gould of the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute.
If a State Isn’t Right to Work, ‘None of the Other Things Are Going to Matter’
Interestingly enough, neither of them tried very hard to defend the decision by pro-forced unionism Obama NLRB members to try to go after what one of their agency’s own administrative law judges referred to only last year as the “well settled and unambiguous precedent” of Machinists, Local 697.
Instead, Drs. Bruno and Gould took potshots at state Right to Work laws and, especially, at economic arguments often made in support of such laws.
For example, Dr. Bruno desperately tried to dismiss the importance of reams of data showing a strong correlation between Right to Work status and faster private-sector job growth.
Despite what the numbers show, he claimed that business owners and managers are perfectly amenable to their employees being corralled into unions.
Unfortunately for Dr. Bruno, seated a few feet away from him was Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.). Mr. Ricketts was previously the chief operating officer of Ameritrade (now TD Ameritrade).
The governor cited his own personal experience as a member of Ameritrade’s leadership team to show that a state Right to Work law is indeed a key consideration for businesses considering where to expand:
“That was kind of the first question. If you’re not a Right to Work state, none of the other things are going to matter. We’re not even going to check you. We’re not going to see what your workforce is like. We’re not going to look to see what your roads and infrastructure” are like.
“If you’re not Right to Work we’ve got plenty of other states that are.’”
Time and again, Drs. Bruno and Gould tried to depict union monopoly bargaining and forced dues as the best scenario for “working people.”
Working-Age Americans Are ‘Voting With Their Feet’ For Right to Work
However, panel Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) retorted that he had in front of him data, furnished by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, showing that working-age Americans themselves clearly have another view of what’s good for them.
From 2003 to 2013, Mr. Kline noted, the aggregate population of people in their prime working years, aged 35-54, increased by 5.4% in states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the whole period, but fell by 4.1% in state that lacked such laws for the entire decade.
“June 3 was not a good day for Big Labor,” reflected Mr. Mix.
“The House hearing that day should pave the way for floor votes on H.R.612 and S.391, the Right to Work measures that would end the manifest injustice of forced union dues. The Committee is now redoubling its lobbying efforts in support of these two measures.”