NLRB Fight Shows How Far Weve Fallen

Dave Johnson

Here is how far we have fallen: Republicans and big corporations are going to extremes, even threatening to shut down entire agencies of the government, just to keep people from knowing what their rights are. They are “investigating” the NLRB for enforcing the laws that cover employees and employers. They are pledging to block any appointees in order to prevent the agency from operating.

How far have we fallen, if the fight is over just letting people know what their rights are? How much power do the big corporations have now, if these wealthy giants of the 1% feel they can even challenge our right to know what the rules are, and an entire political party exists to help them do this?

The Latest Fight

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is trying to require big corporations to put up a poster informing their employees of their rights under the law. The big corporate, anti-union organizations are fighting this as hard as they can. They are suing in court to block the rule, while Republicans in the House and Senate are using every trick in the book to stop the NLRB requirement, right down to holding Congressional investigations of the agency, and threatening to defund it, and to shut it down by crippling its Board.

What The Poster Says

Here are the things that the Republicans and the big corporations that fund them are fighting to keep working people from knowing:

Under the law you have the right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Under the law it is illegal for your employer to:

  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

Under the law, it is illegal for a union or for the union that represents you in bargaining with your employer to:

  • Threaten or coerce you in order to gain your support for the union.
  • Refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union.
  • Use or maintain discriminatory standards or procedures in making job referrals from a hiring hall.
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against you because of your union-related activity.
  • Take adverse action against you because you have not joined or do not support the union.

Click here to see the poster.

This latest fight is because the NLRB is trying to require companies to put up posters that tell workers what their rights are. That’s it. That’s what the poster does. Companies are trying to block this and are fighting with everything they have.

The Lawsuit

Big corporate groups have sued to block the poster requirement, saying the NLRB doesn;’t have “the authority” to require them mto put up this poster, and claiming that it violates the “free speech rights” of big corporations if employees learn what their own rights are. Seriously, that’s the claim.

How far have we fallen, when big corporations feel they can challenge government’s right to even inform citizens of what the laws say? They have good reason to believe that conservative-dominated courts will rule that this violates the “free speech” of non-sentient entities called corporations, over the rights of citizens!

The Hill: Business group challenges NLRB over union poster rule,

Business groups continue to press the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its proposed rule to have employers post notices informing workers of their organizing rights.

On Monday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will present oral arguments in federal court for their lawsuit against the proposed regulation.

[. . .] Trauger said NAM filed the lawsuit because it believes only Congress has the authority to authorize the notice rule. Further, they believe it impinges on employers’ free speech rights.

“We believe the NLRB does not have the authority to require all employers to post the notice in their workplace,” [NAM VP] Trauger said.

Other groups are suing the NLRB over the rule, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Crippling The NLRB

At the end of this year the NLRB will not have enough board members to operate, effectively shutting down the agency. The Supreme Court, in another 5-4 decision (yes, the same 5 corporate-conservative-movement sponsored judges that always rule in favor of the big corporations), ruled in 2010 that the NLRB cannot operate without at least 3 members on the Board. This was part of an ongoing strategy to keep the Board from operating effectively, allowing illegal anti-union efforts to continue. Republicans in the Senate have since filibustered to block the Board from having enough members. Last year President Obama made two recess appointments to the Board to keep it operating, so Republicans have prevented the Senate from going into recess since then, vowing to to anything necessary to continue to block any new appointments that could keep the NLRB in operation and enforcing the law.

The Washington Post explains, in Obama nominates 2 for labor board, despite GOP threat to block any appointments to the agency,

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to nominate two Democrats to the National Labor Relations Board, despite a Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.

Once again: “A Republican threat to block any appointments to the agency.” The Republicans in the Senate are blocking any appointments, in order to force the agency that enforces the rules to stop doing its job.

Meanwhile, in the House, Republicans are engaged in a different tactic to fight the NLRB. The Center for American Progress Action Fund explains, in House Republican Attacks on the National Labor Relations Board Hurt All Workers,

House Republicans are using every tool available to them—including their budget, regulatory, and legislative-oversight powers—to wage a coordinated attack on workers’ rights by trying to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB.

… Over the past year, Republicans in Congress voted to slash funding for the NLRB, attempted to block enforcement of existing worker-protection laws, and even threatened to shut down parts of the federal government in order to advance their goals.

The the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is “investigating” the NLRB, to see if the Board is helping employees who are in unions, demanding the Board turn over documents to the committee by Jan. 3.

The Stakes

A New York Times op-ed, Crippling the Right to Organize, explains the stakes,

UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union.

… Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

What You Can Do

Download and print the NLRB poster, and out it up at your workplace.

Download and print this “Unions 101″ sheet, and leave copies at your workplace for people to find and read.

Send people to visit the AFL-CIO’s A Quick Study of How Unions Help Workers Win a Voice on the Job online.

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