The job-destroying and hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) may have suffered a near-fatal blow with the election of Scott Brown to the Senate in February, but employers are not without concern regarding the impact that a union-friendly administration may have on their businesses.
Unfortunately, with unemployment high and businesses unwilling (or unable) to hire, if President Obama was trying to bring America back from the brink of economic disaster by creating a climate that is ‘pro-business,’ he sure missed the mark with last month’s recess appointment of SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board.
Republicans and the business community have better-grounded reasons to worry about what will happen at the NLRB, which has a long history of overruling itself when the White House changes parties.
Union leaders have sought, through the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, to create an alternative method to organizing that would allow workers to sign cards expressing their desire to join a union. Now that Becker is on the board, Isakson is working with colleagues to draft legislation that would make it a federal law — rather than a regulation — to require unions to hold organizing elections.
In an interview, NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman said that at best, the NLRB could tinker around the edges of current organizing rules by expediting union elections. But even that would have to be done through a process called rulemaking, which the board hasn’t exercised in decades.
Liebman spooked the business community last year when she organized staff educational sessions on that process. She told POLITICO that she did that in anticipation of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, after which the NLRB would be required to write implementation rules.
“Now, it doesn’t look like we will have a labor reform law passed,” she said, referring to the successful GOP filibuster of the legislation.
Still, Johnson is keeping the business community on edge by warning that the NLRB could try to act on its own, even though Liebman, a 12-year board veteran, says it can’t, and that, as chairwoman, she doesn’t intend to move in that direction.
“Rulemaking is not something you snap your fingers and you do. My recommendation is, if we try it, we stick our toe in the water with something small and discreet. Wholesale, radical, sweeping reform,” she said, “is quite unrealistic.” [Emphasis added.]
Regardless of its smallness or its discreetness, the push to expand unions through regulatory fiat is something that, in this economic climate, causes many businesses to think twice about hiring. As a result, any momentum an economic recovery could be getting is merely slowed.
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