Here’s a truth-in-advertising warning to foreign investors about this week’s glossy White House sales pitch: Even as President Obama promises he’s “taking steps to ensure that we remain the destination of choice for investors,” his National Labor Relations Board is putting the screws to America’s employers.
The most obvious example is the NLRB’s ham-fisted attack on aircraft-manufacturer Boeing. Arguing that the company moved production of some of its Dreamliner jets to right-to-work South Carolina from Washington state in order to punish a union, the board ordered Boeing to close its new South Carolina plant and do the work back in Washington.
Obama insists he wants government to “partner with the private sector” to create jobs, but the NLRB’s action will have the opposite effect. Indeed, it could cost 1,000 existing Boeing jobs in South Carolina, and eliminate still more jobs that would’ve been created once the new production line was fully up and running.
Add in the chilling effect: Any businesses looking to expand will have to worry that the heavy hand of the NLRB could come down on them should they shift work to one of the 22 right-to-work states.
Bill Gould, who served on the NLRB during the Clinton administration and agrees with much of what the NLRB is doing these days, has called the Boeing challenge “unprecedented.”
But the Obama NLRB has clearly signaled that it puts the interests of Big Labor ahead of everything else, including its proper role as neutral enforcer of the nation’s labor laws. Examples from just this year:
• The board is pushing to give unions the right to enter a workplace even if their intent is to harass customers and employees. The NLRB says companies shouldn’t be allowed to treat union officials any differently than they do charitable organizations they let on their premises, such as the Girl Scouts or the Red Cross.
• It wants to force employers to post pro-organizing notices in about 6 million workplaces, most of which aren’t unionized, under the guise of informing workers about the National Labor Relations Act. But the posters wouldn’t inform these workers about aspects of the law the unions don’t like — such as the right to vote out a union or withhold union dues spent on politics.
• The board is moving ahead with lawsuits against Arizona and South Dakota over provisions in their state constitutions — enacted through ballot initiatives last fall — that require secret ballots for union-organizing votes. Labor unions, in an effort to expand their ranks, have been pushing hard for the opposite — a “card check” system that would let them know who has and hasn’t voted to organize. The NLRB’s lawsuit conveniently fits into this effort.
• The NLRB is also pushing to let unions cherry-pick groups of workers within a company to organize, without giving those who oppose the union the opportunity to vote, changing an established definition of a “bargaining unit” that has been in place for more than 50 years. The result would be a costly, chaotic mess for businesses trying to juggle multiple unions and different sets of work rules, benefits and wage rates.
• The board is now pushing through rules that eliminate key checks and balances from the process by which a workplace can be unionized — in the name of speeding things up, it’s upending decades of precedent to make it easier for unions to force themselves on workers, who will have less information.
In all this, Obama shares full responsibility. He not only appointed the NLRB’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, he did an end-run around Congress by using a “recess appointment” to put Craig Becker, a former lawyer for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, on the board over bipartisan objections.
In this year’s State of the Union speech, the president said that to “win the future,” the country has to “make America the best place on Earth to do business.” If he really wants to achieve that, he must tell the people he’s appointed to run the National Labor Relations Board: Arbitrary, costly and unfair enforcement of labor laws isn’t the way to win the future or attract foreign investment.
Bret Jacobson is partner at Maverick Strategies + Communications, which serves employers and free-market advocates.
Boosting unions is a job-killing proposition