The Corner

Will Our Senators ‘Ambush’ Virginia Workers And Employers?

On Tuesday there will be a critical vote in the U.S. Senate which will determine whether Virginia employees and employers will be subject to “ambush” elections that would shorten the time for union elections to as few as ten days. This rule could force workers into a unionized workplace with little debate beforehand — even in a right-to-work state like Virginia.

This misguided policy has been promulgated — not by Congress — but by the unelected members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as a favor to unions. It would go into effect on April 30.

Forty-four senators have signed on to a Resolution of Disapproval, S.J. Resolution 36, by Senator Enzi of Wyoming, that would overturn this unnecessary and undemocratic ambush election rule. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate or the House can introduce a joint resolution of disapproval to stop a federal agency from implementing a recent rule or regulation. This Resolution cannot be filibustered and needs only a simple majority in the Senate to pass.

Virginia’s senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, have yet to say how they will vote and are not among the 44 committed to derailing this job-killing regulation. Democrat leadership has indicated that Democrats will hold together for this special favor for their union allies. These same union allies are promising up to $400 million in campaign money for the 2012 elections. Virginia’s small businesses don’t have that type of lucre to offer, but they are creating the majority of new jobs in the Commonwealth and don’t need this added burden and threat to growing their businesses.

#more#The NLRB says this rule is needed because employers aren’t allowing union elections to move forward quickly enough. Yet, the NLRB’s annual report shows union elections normally only take 38 days, below the agency’s goal of 42 days. Ninety-two percent of elections in the workplace take place in fewer than 56 days. Unions win 71 percent of elections. Senator Enzi noted that in 1959, then-senator John F. Kennedy said: “There should be at least a 30-day interval between the request for an election and the holding of an election . . . .in which both parties can present their viewpoints.”

So, why is the NLRB pushing this fundamentally undemocratic “ambush election” rule which would provide far less time to fairly discuss choosing a union? Why does the NLRB want to limit speech and information available to workers?

The NLRB is a federal board that conducts labor elections, investigates unfair labor practices, and protects the rights of employers to free speech and to promote commerce. Its task is to apply and interpret the law, not create new labor law. But the NLRB is currently stacked with members with direct ties to Big Labor who have another agenda. The NLRB’s most egregious action to date was their effort to stop a Boeing plant from opening in South Carolina because Boeing had expanded its operations into a right-to-work state. This outrage was halted in the face of public disapproval, but the NLRB’s behind-the-scenes, excessive bureaucratic efforts to usurp the role of Congress in determining new labor policy continue. The ambush-election rule is just the latest effort by the NLRB to favor unions, stifle economic growth, and kill jobs.

Unions spend months working behind the scenes targeting a business for unionization, making their pitch to some workers unbeknownst to the employer and unbeknownst to many of the other workers in the workplace. When they decide to move forward and call for a union election, it is only fair that the entire workplace get to debate the pros and cons of unionization for their workplace, allowing them to hear both sides.

As the minority NLRB member, Brian Hayes, pointed out in opposing these regulations, the intent of the ambush-election rules is to “eviscerate an employer’s legitimate opportunity to express its views about collective bargaining.” Over 65,000 comments have been filed regarding the regulation and they are largely in opposition to undoing decades of NLRB practice. Virginia’s business community is in unanimous opposition.

S.J. Res. 36 will not in any way change current law, which allows employees to call an election and encourage their colleagues to agree to form a union. It will simply maintain the status quo. If union-election rules did need to be changed, Congress should hold hearings, determine if there is a problem, and change the law through the democratic process — not give a wink and nod to the union-dominated NLRB and allow back-door actions that senators would be loath to vote upon or promote themselves.

Because Virginia is a right-to-work state and we have a strong ban on collective bargaining signed into law by a Democratic governor (Doug Wilder) and a then-Democratic state legislature, some think that the labor-boss-directed mischief in Washington doesn’t impact Virginia. But the continued unprecedented actions of the National Labor Relations Board are a real threat.

While Virginia workers cannot be forced to pay union dues or become union members, an ambush election could result in their workplace being quickly unionized, in turn impacting their pay, their work rules, their vacations, their workplace flexibility, their retirement benefits, and other everyday practices at their workplace. That is why a deliberative process that provides for debate and hearing from both sides should continue.

Our senators should stand up for the free-speech rights of our workers and job creators and protect their opportunity to fully and fairly discuss the benefits and detriments of having a unionized workplace. They should not allow the NLRB to usurp their role in determining labor policy for their constituents. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner should be on the right side of S.J. Res. 36 and vote “yes” for Virginia workers when this resolution comes for a vote on Tuesday.

— Barbara Comstock works with the Workforce Fairness Institute and is a Member of the Virginia House of Delegate, 34th District. 


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