On December 13, 2019 the Trump administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency charged with enforcing labor law and overseeing union certification elections—escalated its assault against workers’ rights by abruptly changing the rules of union elections without notice or public comment. According to a December 21, 2019 article by William Lewis in Truthout, “[s]tarting in six months, when workers petition for an election, they must wait at least 14 business days until a pre-election hearing.”
The NLRB—which consists of unelected political appointees—have the power to postpone such hearings any time they find “good cause.” After a two-week waiting period for a hearing, the scope of the bargaining unit and the eligibility of individual employees to vote in a certification election is subject to litigation. The impact of these new changes puts unions at a major disadvantage since employers now have more time to inundate workers with anti-union propaganda in the lead up to an election.
As Lewis noted, if a union looks like they will somehow manage to win a certification election, “the unelected NLRB now has the ability to suspend the election to resolve any ongoing disputes over the bargaining unit.” Moreover, recent changes to NLRB rules to make it easier to decertify legally recognized collective bargaining units.
Though these NLRB rule change erect yet more “legal hurdle” to workers seeking to form a union, as Lewis explained “they can also simply break the law too.” He cited a 2019 Economic Policy Institute study that found 40 percent of employers in union certification elections resort to “unfair labor practices aimed at undermining electoral procedures and retaliating against pro-union workers.”
There has been no coverage at all of the changes to the NLRB regulations governing union elections by the corporate media. Aside from articles in independent media outlets Truthout and Common Dreams, the only coverage of the NLRB’s rule changes has come from two legal news sites, Bloomberg Law and The National Law Review, that reported in detail on the NLRB’s actions and added additional information about how the new rules overturn Obama era regulations that were designed to shorten and streamline union election procedures.
Jessica Corbett, “Progressives Blast New NLRB Union Elections Rule That ‘Betrays the Workers It Is Meant to Protect’,” Common Dreams, December 13, 2019, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/12/13/progressives-blast-new-nlrb-union-elections-rule-betrays-workers-it-meant-protect.
William Lewis, “Trump Labor Board Escalates War on Workers’ Rights,” Truthout, December 21, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/trump-labor-board-escalates-war-on-workers-rights/.
Student Researcher: Cem Ismail Addemir (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)