Obama and the Regulators
They are imposing huge burdens on business.


Andrew Stiles

In its recent regulatory review, the EPA stated as its “central goal” the reduction of “unjustified burdens and costs.” But as its own assistant administrator, Mathy Stanislaus, has acknowledged, the EPA does not typically analyze the impact that a proposed regulation will have on jobs. In fact, the EPA has even suggested that new regulations can have a positive impact on job growth. “In periods of high unemployment, an increase in labor demand due to regulation may have a stimulative effect that results in a net increase in overall employment,” the agency wrote in February.

National Labor Relations Board. Just as Obama has sought to impose his environmental agenda by executive fiat through the EPA, so he has sought to appease Big Labor following the defeat of the so-called card-check legislation, which would have tipped the scales dramatically in favor of labor unions by, among other things, eliminating the secret ballot in elections determining union representation.

As it happens, the NLRB is currently trying to change the rules for union-representation elections on its own by, for example, allowing for “ambush” elections that would give employers as little as ten days to present their case to employees. Furthermore, the NLRB is poised to issue a decision that would allow for the creation of micro-units or “mini-unions” within workplaces, forcing employers to negotiate with multiple parties, thus putting an added strain on time and resources.

This comes on top of the NLRB’s infamous ruling against Boeing, which recently decided to open a new plant in right-to-work state South Carolina in part because of its frustration with frequent union strikes at its primary plant in Washington. Boeing, having already created thousands of jobs in South Carolina, must now spend millions in court defending itself against the NLRB’s charge that its decision was an unlawful “retaliation” against the unionized workforce at the Washington plant.

National Mediation Board. Another onerous rule that is certain to come up shortly after Congress returns from recess is one that was recently introduced by the NMB stating that employee referendums on unionization can be approved by a simple majority of those voting, as opposed to the old rule requiring that a majority of all affected employees vote in favor of unionization (i.e., a non-vote counts as a vote against). In particular, the airline unions (and their Democratic allies) have their eyes set on Delta, the only major carrier that has yet to be unionized. Delta employees have repeatedly voted against unionization, but the new rule will make it much harder for them to do so.

Republicans have already attempted to strike down this rule in a recent bill authorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, which underwent a temporary shutdown last month when the Senate refused to take up the House bill and adjourned for the recess. Lawmakers eventually approved a short-term funding extension through September 16, so expect this same debate to resurface soon enough.

These are but a smattering of the restrictive federal rules and regulations that are imposing unnecessary burdens on businesses already struggling to weather the ongoing recession. Meanwhile, regulatory agencies have been faring quite well, seeing their budgets (currently about $54 billion) increase by 16 percent since Obama took office.

No doubt the president plans to talk a big game on job creation when he returns from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Republicans should, and appear ready to, offer him plenty of chances to put his money where his mouth is.

— Andrew Stiles is the Franklin Center’s 2011 Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow.


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