The NLRB and Labor Unrest


Filed Under Uncategorized on Nov 14 

The National Labor Relations Board was born in the first years of the Roosevelt Administration with a prototype Board being dissolved after about a year and the permanent structure – more or less – established in mid-1934. Needless to say, it was born in the top-down world of centralized, statist planning and was established to act as a quasi-tribunal for labor relations. The current board, some 80 years later, is now headed into what may be a furious few weeks of rushed rulings before current board member Nancy Schiffer’s term expires on December 16. Perhaps the current Senate can approve Dem Senate staffer Lauren McFerran in the few weeks remaining, but the risk is the approval process may be delayed until the new GOP controlled Senate holds hearings. That makes hurrying up on some of it’s rulings a temptation to the board. One of the rulings that may come down any time now is on the timing of union elections. At the current time, once a regional NLRB director approves workplace union elections, they must be held within 42 days of the decision. This amount of time has meant that businesses have had a reasonable chance to convince workers not to join a union. That may change soon, as the NLRB might shorten the required time within which elections must be held to about 2 weeks. Apparently, studies show that union elections are almost twice as successful under these shortened conditions. That means a lot more unions in a lot more workplaces across the country as the result of such a ruling by the NLRB, should it actually decide that way.

What would a significantly more unionized America behave like in today’s world? Fast food franchises say that they will be squeezed further between a mature, and extremely competitive market and the rising cost of labor, which will rise even faster. With union demands for minimum wage increases echoing louder and louder as employees increasingly join unions, will we return to an age of labor unrest? Strikes and lockouts at your local MacD’s? A father with his toddlers getting pushed around for crossing a picket line to buy them some fries? Or home health care workers picketing their own state governments demanding higher pay from them? It’s hard to say how much support there is generally for unions and higher minimum wages, along with other demands by labor. But the NLRB sits at a key junction of policy and politics in the American workplace, as an independent federal agency. How it rules will impact on how business is done in the country, especially in areas like fast food and home health care, make no mistake. The next few weeks at the NLRB should be interesting.