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The National Labor Relations Board is in the midst of a two-day hearing (being live-tweeted by the AFL-CIO) on its proposed rule change to streamline union representation elections.

The hearing is slated to have testimony from 63 people on both sides of the issue. On the anti-reform side, we have people like Arnold E. Perl speaking for the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose participation is because:

“The Tennessee Chamber has a natural interest in the proposed election rules given that the state of Tennessee’s union membership in the private sector is 2.2 percent, the second lowest in the United States,” Perl told the four-member panel.

Further, in arguing against a proposal to minimize the abuse of delaying tactics, Perl claimed that unions abuse delaying tactics. Follow that logic!

Workers from several sectors testified in favor of the proposal. One SEIU member whose workplace recently joined their union after a 13-year effort, said that management did not stop at hiring security to keep out union organizers and holding anti-union meetings during work hours:

"We tried to move forward, but hospital management stopped us from every angle. The most extreme tactic management used was to subcontract out the hospital's respiratory care services just 12 days before the union election as a way to prevent employees from voting. They were still working in the St. Vincent building, but now they suddenly worked for a different company. As a result, the hospital claimed they were ineligible to vote."

"The RC therapists were about 25 percent of our 100 person bargaining unit and were among the strongest supporters of the union and the core of our organizing efforts. By preventing them from voting, the subcontracting decision completely undermined everything we had worked for. They knew there was no way we could win the election without votes of workers in one of the hospital's largest units."

It took six years of litigation before that issue was settled in the workers' favor.

The NLRB's proposal would not prevent employers from making workers sit through anti-union meetings or interrogating workers one-on-one about their support for a union. It wouldn't strengthen penalties on those who break the law, often by illegally firing workers for their union activity. It would just give them a little less time to do those things and bring union representation elections into the 21st century by requiring electronic voter lists be provided in a timely fashion and allowing electronic filing of documents. And the bosses are terrified of it.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jul 18, 2011 at 02:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Having been part of a union drive (13+ / 0-)

    which crashed and burned primarily due to the sort of abuse that this is intended to ameliorate, I love these changes, as small and subtle as they are.  

    It is, of course, no surprise whatsoever to discover that the entire anti-reform argument is that unions will abuse the process.

    "The first rule of pillow fight club is do not talk about pillow fight club." --Keith Olbermann

    by Julie Waters on Mon Jul 18, 2011 at 02:17:57 PM PDT

  •  How on earth did this sink like a rock? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, shoeless, Lightbulb, Oh Mary Oh

    When I republished to Labor and Unions, I assumed it had no comments because you'd just posted it, but 1 measly comment?  Sheesh.  I know it's not an all out victorious blitz, but you'd think all the incrementalists on site would be cheering at least.

  •  Teacher Brandi Grace (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laura Clawson, TomP

    CCR:"If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but we keep going."

    by jimstaro on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:16:29 AM PDT

  •  Take no prisoners, ever. (6+ / 0-)

    Contest everything, even procedures.

    Can't make abortion illegal?  Then, make it impossible.

    Can't stop workers from wanting to join unions?  Discourage them by making it an absurdly lengthy, overly complicated process.

    Small ball, conservative style.

  •  Thank you for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, Lightbulb

    People need to be conscious of not only what is going on with this issue, but how it actually, over the years, has effected the American middle class which it has had a big influence on.

  •  Glad you are covering this. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brae70, Oh Mary Oh

    It actually may have more long term impact on reducing class stratification than many other things this adminstration has done.

    CitizenX: "If the republicans were in charge GM & Chrysler would be dead and Osama bin Laden would be alive."

    by TomP on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:29:30 AM PDT

  •  Well I'm management in a union workplace and.... (4+ / 0-)

    ... I dunno, this rule change seems pretty reasonable to me....

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:32:11 AM PDT

  •  the real reform that needs to be made . . . (5+ / 0-)

    . . . is to make labor laws actual LAWS, with punishments and everything.

    Right now, the only remedy for labor law violations is reinstatement and back pay if applicable.  If the violation doesn't involve back pay, the only punishment is, literally, to be told not to do that again.

    Fines and/or jail sentences for violators, would work wonders.

  •  These changes will be of some if they come about, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opinionated, Oh Mary Oh

    but a more bold strategy is needed.  The problem is
    that the "majoritarian" model of unionism has become the norm, and is dependent on government certification procedures.  Workers need to able to unite across workplaces ASAP by forming worker groups in their own communities.

    These groups can educate non-union workers in ways to fight back within the context of their worplaces.  For example: how to "handle" a performance review, the theory of "no rate-busting", how to navigate OSHA, Workers' Compensation, etc.

    The right to organize "minority" or "non-certified" unions exists on paper, but not much in reality.  This concept would be a great boon to the labor movement.  

    "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring 'em home; bring 'em home." - Pete Seeger

    by brae70 on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:38:44 AM PDT

    •  it should be pointed out that there is no legal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      requirement for any union to be certified through an NLRB election. In cases where I was organizing a small workplace with not many employees, I always advised them to use a strike, a slowdown, or some other on-the-job action to forcibly extract a voluntary recognition from the boss WITHOUT going through the NLRB, specifically to deny the boss the opportunity to utilize all the standard anti-union tactics. That strategy worked much more often than it failed--and even if it failed, there was still the option of an NLRB election as a plan B.

      And in cases where we had to go through the NLRB, if there were ANY violations at all, I always filed a blizzard of labor law violation charges against them, as many as I could think up, then ask the NLRB for a "bargaining order", an order to recognize the union without an election -- a theoretical remedy for instances where the boss's illegal actions have made a fair election impossible. Bargaining orders are virtually impossible to get (and I never got one), but the threat of it was often good enough to end at least the most blatant abuses--and besides it gave the boss's lawyers something expensive to do.

      •  Hmm (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh

        Any employee who was recognized as participating in a slowdown or other action basically risks just getting fired. If they were actually organizing for a union, it is possible that the actions could be violations in and of themselves--and any strike over anything that was not due to a ULP (for instance, to somehow try to obtain voluntary recognition) would allow the employer to terminate every one of them with no penalty. Either an employer is going to offer voluntary recognition or they're not; most employers will spend more money to fight the union than it would cost to have the workplace unionized in order to avoid the precedent, so if they aren't initially offering voluntary recognition, (which is a TINY number of employers anyhow) they certainly aren't going to offer it because they are getting pissed on.

        And yes, bargaining orders are virtually impossible. The behavior of the employer has to be so incredibly egregious and without question that it makes any kind of disputed ULP claim not likely whatsoever to get a bargaining order. If you have the kind of evidence you need to obtain a bargaining order, you'd just have it. I think that most management attorneys I have dealt with would laugh at someone throwing a bargaining order threat around, as they know that it is nearly impossible, not to mention they are fully aware of the law.

        Sorry to write a lame comment, but as someone who has investigated numerous ULP violations at the Board, I can say that throwing a litany of alleged violations that don't have merit or are a long-shot really just work against the union. You end up with a boy who cried wolf situation, and each charge is assigned to one agent. This also means that the process available to workers might take longer because of the increased caseload due to questionable charges.

        If you were so inclined, it would be cool if you were to follow me so that I show up in your DK4 stream. I do my best to put a lot of work into my diaries and I hope you dig em.

        by nickinnewyork on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 07:22:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A point I try to make, which often brings (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    la58, opinionated, Odysseus, Oh Mary Oh

    a favorable response:  Government enforces anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment laws to a very great extent, even to the point of massive fines for violations of the first two.  As a result, companies move heaven and earth to avoid these kinds of cases.  The right to organize should be on a par with these others.

    "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring 'em home; bring 'em home." - Pete Seeger

    by brae70 on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:43:54 AM PDT

  •  Unions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    Currently, corporations bear no ill effects when they fight unions. Even if the corporations engage in illegal activities, they aren't substantially punished.

    Until that changes, I'm not convinced that union membership will grow. I think more companies will behave like Wal-Mart instead.

    I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - M Angelou

    by Lightbulb on Tue Jul 19, 2011 at 10:47:04 AM PDT

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