Republican lawmakers introduced legislation today to reverse a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that allows unions to organize particular sections of a workplace rather than the whole business. The Republicans said the NLRB’s ruling was a potential calamity for the economy by making labor strife more likely.
The lawmakers also re-introduced legislation to require all workplace organizing election to have a NLRB-monitored secret ballot vote by workers. The proposal would prohibit any so-called “card check” elections – that is, workplace organizing by what amounts to a public petition — even if management agreed to them.
The efforts are largely symbolic. The lawmakers conceded they had little expectation of the legislation making it through the Democrat-majority Senate.
The Republicans said the legislation was nevertheless necessary to counter the NLRB, which has become an activist pro-labor group under President Obama. The board is a quasi-independent federal agency whose members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. It enforces the National Labor Relations Act, making it effectively a referee between management and unions.
“The NLRB is clearly not on the side of economic productivity and jobs,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
The Representation Fairness Restoration Act would roll back a 2011 NLRB decision in a case called Specialty Healthcare. The board allowed a union to organize just part of a workplace, rather than all of it, which is the standard. Big Business opposes these so-called “micro-unions,” seeing them as giving unions a toehold in otherwise non-union businesses.
Republicans argued the micro-unions could be very disruptive.
“You could easily have an environment where a workplace could have 6, even 8, unions,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Mn. He argued that a union could be as small as four members under the NLRB ruling and still be able to leverage a strike to bring a workplace to a halt.
“What happens if one union goes on strike? Who crosses the picket line?” Kline asked. The legislation would simply require the NLRB to return to the original understanding of the law prior to the Specialty Healthcare decision, he said.
While the two bills would likely pass the GOP-majority House, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., conceded the companion Senate versions had no Democratic co-sponsors.
“(Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid controls the floor. It is not likely that Harry Reid will let it come to the floor,” he said.