‘Single-Party Elections’ in the Workplace?

Obama Labor Department Schemes to Help Union Bosses Run Unopposed

(Click here to download the National Right to Work Committee’s November-December 2013 Newsletter)

ght to Work Newsletter know all too well, federal labor law is intensely biased in favor of the collectivization of employees by union officials.

But the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does at least specify that union organizers can acquire monopoly power to negotiate the pay, benefits, and other working conditions of all the employees in a group only under certain conditions.

Only if the majority of those casting votes in an election support unionization, or if the majority of all employees in the federally-designated “bargaining unit” sign union “authorization” cards, may a single union become the so-called “exclusive representative.”

The NLRA also tacitly recognizes that, before employees collectively decide whether or not they will be unionized, they have, as then-Justice John Paul Stevens put it in a 2008 majority opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court, an “underlying right to receive information opposing unionization.”

Pending Rule’s Clear Intent Is to Control What Employees Hear Dec NL_Page_4

Arguably, the protection of employees’ right to hear both sides of the story regarding union representation is the primary purpose of NLRA Sec. 8(c). It protects all speech supporting or opposing unionization, including speech by employers, managers, and their agents, as long as it “contains no threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.”

Many employers whose employees are being urged to unionize believe their employees should have the chance to hear all the key relevant facts before they make a collective decision.

However, federal bureaucratic regulations and court decisions have for decades tightly limited what employers may say under such circumstances, despite the seemingly broad protection afforded by Sec. 8(c).

Unless they can receive expert legal advice, therefore, even employers who care a great deal about their employees’ freedom may well opt to say nothing.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s Labor Department is now attacking employers’ ability to receive such advice. National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King sharply criticized the so-called “persuader rule” that the Labor Department recently announced it would release in its final version this coming March.

“American employees ought to be able to learn about the possible downsides of unionization without their employer’s unduly risking massive federal fines and other penalties,” said Ms. King.

“Up to now, presidential administrations of all stripes have accepted that, at least in principle, employees facing a unionization drive have a right to hear what their employer has to say.”

No Other Administration Has Adopted Obama Team’s Strained Reading of 1959 Law 

Ms. King continued: “That’s why, since the 1959 Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act [LMRDA] was adopted, every administration has interpreted it to require employers to file extensive paperwork with the federal government regarding their labor consultants only if those consultants communicate directly with employees.

“Even the aggressively pro-forced unionism Carter and Clinton Administrations never interpreted it to impose burdensome paperwork requirements on employers who only seek expert advice as they or their managers communicate with employees, orally and/or in writing, about what unionization could mean.

“However, under the Obama Labor Department’s proposed new ‘persuader’ rule, the LMRDA’s ‘advice’ exemption would be effectively nullified. If an employer hires any individual or firm for virtually any kind of assistance during a unionization campaign, reams of paperwork will be required.

“The cost of hiring and retaining qualified staff to fill out complicated disclosure forms that most small businesses normally don’t have to file would suffice to deter many from seeking any advice. And without expert advice, most will likely deem it prudent to go mute when union organizers call.

“‘Single-party elections,’ in which the rules are rigged to ensure only one side’s message gets heard, are regarded as normal under despotic governments in places like China and Cuba, but they have never been acceptable in America. Now is not the time to start.”

Ms. King vowed that she and other Committee leaders would mobilize Right to Work’s 2.8 million members this winter to turn up the pressure on Congress to stop Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez’ “persuader rule” scheme before it takes effect.