August 20, 2015
When it comes to workers’ rights, it’s critical for employees to have the facts and information required to make an educated and informed decision to form, join, or decline membership in a labor organization. In light of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) newly-enacted “ambush election rule,” which sped up the process in which union elections can be held, it’s important for workers to use National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) to arm themselves with the facts and review their rights.
The ambush election ruling was enacted by the NLRB as a tool to increase workplace unionization. Despite the fact that the previous system and timeline was working just fine – 90 percent of organized elections already occurred within a reasonable timeframe of 56 days – the new rule speeds up the election time from a previous average of 38 days, to now as little as ten.
This rule doesn’t benefit American workers; it does nothing but help Big Labor increase their declining membership rolls. Since the rule took effect, as expected, the number of election petitions have dramatically increased – with a 15 percent surge in the first three months alone.
The employer-employee relationship is an important one, but the new NLRB rules limit employers’ right to free speech with their workers. Employers must rush to submit their “statement of position,” and then are prohibited from speaking to their workers about anything outside of their statement. However, organized union campaigns have as much time as they want, with no limits on what they can say and promise, since many campaigns begin well before a petition is filed.
Because of these limits on speech, employees are unable to learn what unionization would logistically look like day-to-day in their place of work. How are they supposed to take a vote or make an informed decision in such a limited window of time? How can they even begin to understand the impacts of collective bargaining if they are unable to speak freely with their employer, the one who works with them day in and day out?
The new rules violate workers’ privacy, as well. Employers must turn over their employees’ private information, including home and cell phone numbers, personal email addresses, job classifications, shift times and home mailing addresses, in just two days after the petition has been filed. Your personal information is released without any safeguards in place to ensure it remains confidential, or is safely disposed of after the election. Union bosses can now camp outside your homes in order to coerce you into organizing – nowhere is off limits.
Under this confusing new system, it’s important that workers know their rights. Recent polls show that many union members don’t realize that they have the right to opt out of union membership entirely. Every employee should be able, and have the time, to make the decision that’s best for them.
Employees who live in one of the 25 Right-to-Work states can choose to opt out of their union membership. For those that live in the other half of the country, they can decide to become an “agency fee payer” and only pay for the non-political components of union membership. They can also become a “conscientious objector” and would not have to contribute to the union at all.
There are alternatives to joining unions, like joining other professional organizations at a fraction of the cost. For example, teachers have multiple other organizations to choose from, like the Association of American Educators, or the Christian Educators Association International, which both offer insurance benefits for less. Union membership is costly, and workers have no say where that money goes.
With 91 percent of unions’ political spending money filling the coffers to help elect Democrats, it’s not surprising that the Obama administration’s NLRB is filled with union bosses enforcing pro-union policies. But employees shouldn’t be forced into affiliations without the adequate time and information to make an informed decision. Fortunately, members of Congress are taking steps to protect American workers and defund these NLRB efforts. In the meantime, during National Employee Freedom Week, take a moment to learn the facts, assess your rights and educate your colleagues on the options available.
Hector Barreto is the former head of the Small Business Administration.