Prominent among the alphabet soup of federal regulatory agencies is the National Labor Relations Board, which, according to its website, is “vested with the power to safeguard employees' rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative,” and “acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”
With the Obama administration so far into the tank for organized labor that everyone’s head is underwater, the five-member NLRB and its bureaucracy (replete with temporary and recess appointees not confirmed to the positions they occupy by a vote of the U.S. Senate) is being transformed into a hammer the unions are using to try and get everything they want—and what they want is more members and the dues they would bring. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]
It’s the natural result of politics. The big unions put tens of millions of dollars (at least) into the election on behalf of Democrats like Barack Obama. What they got for their trouble is a considerable amount of leverage—leverage they are using to try and force changes to U.S. labor law that would work to their benefit and against the best interests of workers who have opted not to become “unionized.”
The unions want the Obama administration and Congress to allow them to enroll new workers through “card check,” a process that supplants organizing elections and could put an end to the secret ballot in such cases. So far, the Democrats have not been able to get it through Congress. So they’re going the administrative route. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should Congress pass a 'card check' law?]
This means trying to do it through the NLRB by regulatory fiat. As a first step, the agency has just announced it will go ahead with lawsuits against the states of Arizona and South Dakota because they passed, by citizen initiative, constitutional amendments that require secret ballot elections to form unions.
Card check is popular with the union bosses looking for increased political power and increased dues money because it’s an open process that lets organizers know who’s on board and who’s not. It’s a fertile ground for the intimidation of workers and worse—which is exactly why we have elections in this country by the sacred institution of the secret ballot. And it’s this institution that the Arizona, South Dakota, and other state constitutional amendments recently enacted seek to protect. For the unions and their allies in the Democratic Party, though, these amendments are roadblocks that must be cleared away before their overall plans can come to fruition.
The number of people joining unions, as percentage of the total workforce, is down considerably from where it was at its peak in the 1950s. In fact, it’s at a 70 year low, with the only real growth coming in the public sector from government workers like teachers and bureaucrats. America is now well down the road to a post-industrial economy, far different from the heavy manufacturing-based one that existed from the 1920s to the 1970s. The NLRB needs to change with the times, but it won’t because it has been bought and paid for by powerful political special interests that want to use it to achieve a desired result.