December 8, 2015
Both the House and Senate are moving appropriations bills with attached riders that would end the rash, union-promoting ambush election ruling that has caused confusion for both employers and employees in their place of work. These are critical efforts that would reinstate balance and fairness in the workplace, and would prevent unions from ambushing employers with quickie union elections in sometimes as few as nine days.
The Obama administration is no stranger to overburdening, job-killing regulations but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) this year seems to be trying to cram every rule they can down the throats of American workers in order to help boost unionization. With its ambush rule, the joint employer rule and the micro-unions allowance, the National Labor Relations Board is out of control, and has proven to be one of the most ideological NLRBs in America’s history. The board was created to protect workers, not boost the membership rolls of unions on the taxpayer’s dime. But President Obama has made fighting for unions such a priority during his presidency that he vetoed a previous congressional attempt to overturn this egregious ruling and rein in the board. He seems content to appoint union bosses and allow them to set their own rules and run the show.
Union membership has for years been on the decline — so the NLRB has taken recruitment efforts upon themselves. Why are ambush elections so damaging? History shows that the shorter the amount of time in which an election takes place, the greater the likelihood that a company will unionize. Unions, many of which have been coordinating for weeks or months prior to officially launching their petition, take advantage of this shortened time frame and confusion to make false promises and coerce workers into the collective. Indeed, as soon as the ambush election rule went into effect, the number of workplace petitions to unionize skyrocketed.
The National Labor Relations Board’s ambush election rule was a solution is search of a problem; a rule to speed up the process was unnecessary. In 2014, more than 95 percent of elections took place within 56 days, and employers have historically had an average of 38 days before an election to prepare. This allowed both employers and employees ample time to educate themselves on the process and choice.
Furthermore, ambush elections erode the employer-employee relationship, limiting what employers can say to the people they work with every day. Before this rule took effect, employers had time to speak with their employees about what unionization would look like for their individual workplace. Ideas were able to be exchanged. Now, however, their free speech is chilled and due process thwarted. Employers only have eight calendar days — not business days — to hire outside counsel and prepare for a hearing, and must submit their Statement of Position within that time frame, due the day before the hearing. They are barred from speaking to employees about the election outside of their statement and can’t answer further questions. If the goal of unions is to sow discord in the workplace, then ambush elections allow them to do just that.
They also exploit worker privacy — providing union bosses with the information and tools to harass workers at their homes or places of work. Prior to this rule, employers were only required to provide names and home addresses of their workers. Now, however, they must turn over all forms of contact information they have, including personal email addresses and phone and cell numbers. By providing nearly unfettered access, it’s abundantly clear that these new rules are stacked in favor of the unions — and the National Labor Relations Board knows it.
Congress is once again flexing the power of the purse with another attempt to repeal this egregious regulation. We need to give workers the time and tools to make informed choices when deciding whether to join a union. This is a process that simply cannot be rushed. Ambush elections only benefit union leaders, not workers. Thus, we must bring an appropriations bill to President Obama’s desk that repeals this rule.
Hector Barreto is the former head of the Small Business Administration.