The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency set up to referee and investigate disputes between employers and labor unions—has taken a severe turn from neutral arbiter to pro-union advocate under President Obama. It’s so bad that a federal judge recently took notice, writing in a ruling that a recent NLRB document request “arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of federal labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the union.”
It seems that the NLRB’s investigative division (headed by a controversial former Operating Engineers union counsel) demanded that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospital chain hand over an inordinately large amount of “highly confidential and proprietary information” to NLRB investigators. Coincidentally (we’re sure), UPMC is currently being aggressively targeted by the SEIU for unionization, and the NLRB is investigating complaints brought by SEIU organizers.
While the judge felt bound by legal rules to allow the document request to go forward, other NLRB pro-union power grabs have been less successful. Most notably, President Obama’s “packing” the NLRB with “recess appointees” who weren’t actually recess appointees was struck down by the Supreme Court. (The Board has now been lawfully constituted and is proceeding apace to repeat the pro-union decisions the illegal board made.)
The list of court losses is long. Two federal appeals courts struck down an NLRB mandatory propaganda poster order. Another federal court enjoined a “quickie elections” rule, which the NLRB is now attempting to revive. A new effort to abolish the longstanding business structure known as franchising at the urging of the SEIU will likely join these flops in the roll of overreach shot down by the court system.
A 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report called the Obama NLRB a “dysfunctional union advocate.” It seems that little has changed since then.