NLRB Shills for Card Check

Amidst a week of major events dominating the news landscape, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dropped a bomb last Friday afternoon.  Apparently, the NLRB felt the need to flex some muscle and has threatened to sue four states over laws passed by voter referendum in November.  The laws in question would guarantee workers the right to a secret ballot when deciding whether or not to join a union.

NLRB's actions are a naked attempt to protect Big Labor's favorite organizing tool -- card check --  which also is a key component of the widely unpopular and job-killing Employee Free Choice Act.  Under a card check scheme, rather than voting by secret ballot, workers are forced to "choose" whether or not to join the union by signing or not signing a card in front of a union organizer and co-workers that support the union.  Courts have said federal law favors secret ballot elections, but permits card check where an employer and union agree to one.

The NLRB claims the state laws are "preempted," because they infringe on the federal government's jurisdiction over private sector labor relations.  The Board's
statement said:

The National Labor Relations Board today advised the Attorneys General of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah that recently-approved state constitutional amendments governing the method by which employees choose union representation conflict with federal labor law and therefore are preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Translation: Sorry, states and voters who tried protecting a fundamental democratic right, you lose.  And furthermore:

The states were also advised that the Board has authorized the Acting General Counsel to file lawsuits in federal court, if necessary, to enjoin them from enforcing the laws.

Next translation: Don't try to defy us or you may get hauled in front of a judge. 

The NLRB's actions are surprising, given it has been less than territorial in recent history.  There have been half a dozen or so state and local laws enacted in the last decade that have infringed on federal jurisdiction, the vast majority of which were aimed at promoting union organizing at the expense of free speech.  The NLRB, which is tasked with both protecting the right to organize and the right refrain from doing so, could have sued or threatened suit against any one of these laws -- but instead it sat on its hands. 

So why would the NLRB expend the time and resources here, where action means opposing secret ballots for workers?  The truth is this is just the latest example of the NLRB advocating for union bosses at the expense of workers, businesses and the American public.   If the government is going to pursue a policy of challenging laws based on federal preemption, it should do so consistently, not just when it promotes Big Labor's agenda.  

Geoffrey Burr is Chair of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace
Amidst a week of major events dominating the news landscape, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dropped a bomb last Friday afternoon.  Apparently, the NLRB felt the need to flex some muscle and has threatened to sue four states over laws passed by voter referendum in November.  The laws in question would guarantee workers the right to a secret ballot when deciding whether or not to join a union.

NLRB's actions are a naked attempt to protect Big Labor's favorite organizing tool -- card check --  which also is a key component of the widely unpopular and job-killing Employee Free Choice Act.  Under a card check scheme, rather than voting by secret ballot, workers are forced to "choose" whether or not to join the union by signing or not signing a card in front of a union organizer and co-workers that support the union.  Courts have said federal law favors secret ballot elections, but permits card check where an employer and union agree to one.

The NLRB claims the state laws are "preempted," because they infringe on the federal government's jurisdiction over private sector labor relations.  The Board's
statement said:

The National Labor Relations Board today advised the Attorneys General of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah that recently-approved state constitutional amendments governing the method by which employees choose union representation conflict with federal labor law and therefore are preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Translation: Sorry, states and voters who tried protecting a fundamental democratic right, you lose.  And furthermore:

The states were also advised that the Board has authorized the Acting General Counsel to file lawsuits in federal court, if necessary, to enjoin them from enforcing the laws.

Next translation: Don't try to defy us or you may get hauled in front of a judge. 

The NLRB's actions are surprising, given it has been less than territorial in recent history.  There have been half a dozen or so state and local laws enacted in the last decade that have infringed on federal jurisdiction, the vast majority of which were aimed at promoting union organizing at the expense of free speech.  The NLRB, which is tasked with both protecting the right to organize and the right refrain from doing so, could have sued or threatened suit against any one of these laws -- but instead it sat on its hands. 

So why would the NLRB expend the time and resources here, where action means opposing secret ballots for workers?  The truth is this is just the latest example of the NLRB advocating for union bosses at the expense of workers, businesses and the American public.   If the government is going to pursue a policy of challenging laws based on federal preemption, it should do so consistently, not just when it promotes Big Labor's agenda.  

Geoffrey Burr is Chair of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace

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