Trump’s National Labor Relations Board moves to make joining a union more difficult

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TRUMP-APPOINTED NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb wants to stop or reverse all pro-worker board rulings of the last eight years

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the main federal labor law enforcement agency, recently moved to roll back a rule that forced employers to give the contact information for their workers to labor unions.

The five-member Trump-dominated board said it would reopen the 2014 election rule that simplified the election process by which working people can join together to bargain for better wages and working conditions to public comment – the first step in officially rewriting it.

Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, minced no words in his response.

“Again, we are faced with the reality of what happens when a government that is being run by a corporate billionaire and his corrupt band of cronies. It is never good news for the people that go to work every day and do the work that moves this country,” Louis said.

“It’s just a damn shame that we are being led down a road by people who want the rich to get richer off the backs of the workers who are continually being attacked by the 1%.”

Under current law, when a union petitions to represent a workplace, the employer must give the union a list of all prospective voters — workers — in that election.

In 2014, the board, which then had a Democratic majority, expanded the requirement from a list of names and addresses to also include “personal phone numbers and email addresses” in order to “maximize the likelihood that all the voters will be exposed to the arguments for, as well as against, union representation.”

The rule also limited employers’ ability to raise delaying objections during the election process and shortened the time period from when elections are scheduled to when they are held.

The decision by the now Republican-majority NLRB to reopen the rule, is a clear attempt to appease employers who want every tool possible to defeat workers’ efforts to form a union.

“The NLRB’s decision to re-examine the rule demonstrates that the Trump board majority has little interest in maintaining an efficient election process for this nation’s workers,” said Celine McNicholas, EPI Labor counsel for the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and a core member of EPI’s Perkins Project on Worker Rights and Wages.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The election rule the Trump majority board is seeking to roll back:

• Provides for electronic filing and transmission of election petitions and other documents;

• Ensures that employees, employers and unions receive timely information they need to understand and participate in the representation case process;

• Eliminates or reduces unnecessary litigation, duplication and delay;

• Adopts best practices and uniform procedures across regions;

• Requires that additional contact information (personal telephone numbers and email addresses) be included in voter lists, to the extent that information is available to the employer, in order to enhance a fair and free exchange of ideas by permitting other parties to the election to communicate with voters about the election using modern technology; and

• Allows parties to consolidate all election-related appeals to the Board into a single appeals process.

FURTHER RIGGING THE SYSTEM

“The majority of American workers would vote for union representation if they could,” McNicholas said. “However, the intensity with which employers have opposed organizing efforts and the continuing tilt of the legal and policy playing field against workers seeking to bargain collectively, has led to a decline in union membership. Today’s announcement makes it clear the Trump board will work to further rig the system against working people.”

HOW TO COMMENT

You can comment on the election rule and the need to leave it as is online by going to nlrb.gov and following the link directly under the menu at the top of the page to submit responses to the Notice and Request for Information.

You can also mail your response by standard mail to: Roxanne Rothschild, Deputy Executive Secretary, National Labor Relations Board, 1015 Half Street SE, Washington, DC 20570.

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Memo from Trump’s new NLRB General Counsel Robb puts a stop to almost every ruling helping workers

Washington (PAI) – Discrimination against union workers during bargaining. Holding joint employers – a corporate headquarters and its local franchise-holders – responsible for obeying, or breaking, labor law. Using company e-mail systems to announce union meetings.

These National Labor Relations Board decisions, and more, are under threat, according to a memo from the agency’s new general counsel, Peter Robb. In so many words, he wants to stop or reverse all pro-worker board rulings of the last eight years.

Robb, nominated by GOP President Donald Trump, took over the agency’s top enforcement post on Nov. 17. He succeeded Richard Griffin, the former general counsel who, before that, had been the lead counsel for the Operating Engineers. Griffin’s term ended Nov. 1.

By contrast, Robb, a management-side labor lawyer from Vermont, was the young attorney in the Federal Labor Relations Authority who, 36 years ago, drew up the memo justifying GOP President Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers.

Robb’s position is important: The NLRB General Counsel is its top day-to-day manager and the decision-maker on what cases to pursue before the full board or in the courts.

No sooner did he enter the GC’s office than Robb sent out a memo to all NLRB regional directors on Dec. 1, freezing enforcement actions and indicating he wants to roll back dozens of NLRB pro-worker rulings handed down in the last eight years, when Democratic President Barack Obama had named a board majority.

Robb also said any new initiatives will come to a screeching halt.

“Cases should be processed and complaints issued according to existing law. No new theories will be presented on cases that have been fully briefed to the board, to avoid further delay,” his memo said. And “the general counsel will not offer new views” on NLRB’s court cases, unless the board or the courts order him to do so.

REVERSING PRO-WORKER RULINGS

At the heart of the memo is Robb’s order that cases “involving significant legal issues” should be sent to the board’s advice division in advance – including cases during the last eight years where “the board overruled precedents and involved one or more dissents.”  The implication is Robb wants to reverse those pro-worker rulings.

That covers virtually all the key cases the labor board, which governs worker-boss relations in most private industry, decided. That’s because, by law, no political party can have more than three of the five NLRB members, and the minority two. So 3-2 votes on notable issues, with dissents, are common.

CASES IN JEOPARDY

Robb listed some of the cases, in groups, that he wants to override, or, as he put it, “provide alternative analysis” to the board’s five members.

One case he wants to override lets union members use employers’ email to post meeting notices, rather than restricting them to bulletin boards, for example.

Another lets union reps have a wider range of employer discipline to tackle when standing up for workers who invite them into the meetings with the boss.

And while the National Labor Relations Act legalizes workers joining together – in unions or otherwise – for “mutual aid and protection,” Robb’s memo says that shouldn’t apply where only one worker is involved. The 2014 Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market case extended the law to a sole woman worker, who was subject to sexual harassment on the job.

And a big one is the board’s “joint employer” ruling, which Griffin favored, holding the big franchisor, such as McDonald’s headquarters, equally liable with the local franchisee for following or breaking labor law in relations with their workers.

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