Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

NLRB: Naughty or Nice?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has officially made the “naughty list” for 2012. Earlier this month, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report criticizing the NLRB for abandoning its role as an “independent regulator” and becoming a “dysfunctional union advocate.”

The report, which runs to 33 pages, “documents a pattern of behavior at the NLRB that undermines its integrity and creates an impression that the NLRB has morphed into a rogue agency plagued by systemic problems.”

The overview of the NLRB’s questionable rulings and activities includes:

  • •A “pro-union bias,” including “an extreme lack of impartiality” in the recent Boeing case and “jubilance and excitement” at news of the union’s agreement with Boeing.
  • •Multiple instances of NLRB officials “undermining the separation principle,” particularly between the Board and the Office of the General Counsel during the Boeing case.
  • Evidence that NLRB officials “thwarted Congressional oversight” on several occasions, including delays in handing over documents and “flippant” reactions to congressional requests.
  • Fostering “uncertainty and instability” in the workplace through its rulemaking and its lawsuit against Boeing.

The report also highlights the NLRB’s reversal of precedent in its Specialty Healthcare decision. The decision’s legalization of “minority unions,” the report notes, allows unions to organize businesses regardless of whether a majority of employees support unionization.

Another example of the NLRB’s naughtiness is the “regulatory overreach” it has undertaken in the form of two new hyper-partisan substantive rules. The rules in question are the “quickie election” rule and the “notice posting” rule—two overtly partisan rules which have been reviewed by federal courts.

Rounding out the list are complaints about President Obama’s questionable use of “recess appointments” to appoint controversial Board members and allegations of “ethical and criminal misconduct” by NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, most notably in a case in which he had a financial interest.

Final decisions on the legality of many of these issues have not yet been reached, most notably with the faux-recess appointments. Yet the abundance of evidence still points to an NLRB that has abandoned its neutrality and taken up the union cause as its own. All that remains is to see what the NLRB gets in its stocking this year. Hopefully it won’t be card check.

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