August 2011

From the Officers
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Playing Politics with Labor Law

The Chamber of Commerce, Republican lawmakers and a whole array of anti-worker special interest groups blew a gasket earlier this summer over new rule changes proposed by the National Labor Relations Board, unleashing a barrage of hostile statements against the United States' highest arbiter of labor law.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said that President Obama has stacked the NLRB with "union thugs," while a ranking official at the Chamber said the agency was trying to bully business owners into giving up their right to free speech.

What heinous crime did the board commit to warrant such attacks? Streamlining the NLRB certification process to reduce the period of time when workers file a petition for a union election and the election itself.

As we report this month, the NLRB's new rules are designed to eliminate voting delays and modernize election procedures to bring labor law into the 21st century.

Too often companies try to play the system when workers start organizing, throwing up delays to prevent an election. Sometimes workers have to wait months before they get a vote—if they are lucky enough to get one at all.

The 1935 National Labor Relations Act makes clear that "the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing" is every employee's right.

People like DeMint and Chamber officials have to be either willfully ignorant of labor law or utterly blinded by partisan ideology to find these rule changes controversial.

For years anti-union employers have managed to circumvent basic labor law, thanks in part to politicians who have subverted the NLRB by stacking it with corporate lobbyists and anti-union advocates.

But now for the first time in more than a decade we have a board whose members are versed in labor law and understand that their job is to protect workers' rights, not eviscerate them.

We need to remind Congress that the right of employees to collectively bargain is still the law of the land and that the NLRB is merely doing its job. The frantic opposition to a very modest change just shows how committed right-wing legislators are to talking away our rights on the job by playing politics with the agencies charged with upholding basic workplace fairness.


Also: Hill: Tough Market Demands Versatility

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer