Now that the National Labor Relations Board — the agency responsible for governing private-sector labor disputes — has a full quorum, it is ready to resume its pro-union advocacy.
Of note, the NLRB showed its unionist position in a dispute between the Teamsters union and the Pacific Publishing Company, where a majority of employees wanted to cut ties with the Teamsters.
Pacific Publishing, a company based in Seattle, ended contract negotiations with the Teamsters upon learning a majority of its employees no longer wanted union representation.
The Teamsters then filed a complaint against Pacific Publishing with the NLRB’s regional office in Seattle, which was dismissed. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the NLRB Seattle office found “no evidence managers played an improper role in the employees’ decision.”
However, the Teamsters appealed to the NLRB D.C. office. Unfortunately for Pacific Publishing employees, NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin, a former union lawyer, accepted the Teamsters’ appeal. Griffin filed a complaint against Pacific Publishing and “asked the board to give the labor group more time to persuade the unhappy members to return to the fold.”
As Bloomberg Businessweek reported:
The union appealed to Washington and on Dec. 30, the board filed a complaint against Pacific Publishing and said the employer must delay any action for a “reasonable period.” During that time, employees may change their minds and their union affiliation would continue.
The NLRB’s pro-union bias suggests a need for labor law reform. One solution: enact the Employee Rights Act, which would give workers back control over union representation.
In particular, a provision in the ERA that would protect the interests of the Pacific Publishing employees is one regarding union recertification elections, which make sure the majority of workers a union represents (and collects dues) still actually want union representation.
Specifically, the ERA amends the National Labor Relations Act to require union recertification elections when a bargaining unit “experiences turnover, expansion, or alteration by merger of unit represented employees exceeding 50 percent of the bargaining unit.” Once this happens, a secret-ballot recertification election is triggered and a vote on whether to keep union representation takes place.
If the majority of the workers vote to reject continuing union representation, the NLRB decertifies the union. At this point, the union is ordered to cease representing the bargaining unit employees and any collective bargaining agreement still in effect is terminated.
It is important to note that most workers never voted on whether or not to have union representation. According to Center for Union Facts, less than 10 percent of all workers voted for union representation.
Clearly, labor law needs to be reformed to give workers a choice whether or not to join a union. A union and government agency should not have the power to lock employees into union representation — especially when most workers probably never voted for a union in the first place.