New NLRB union election rules do no harm

For example, the chart notes that parties cannot now electronically transmit or file important documents, but the new procedure allows electronic collection and distribution of information. As a result, deadlines can be shortened and the representation procedures streamlined. Critics of the federal government loudly complain about its inefficiencies; making the NLRB function more smoothly should be applauded rather than condemned.

On the issue of employer communication, federal labor law gives employers a right to communicate their opinions about unions to workers at any time, so long as the employer does not threaten to retaliate against or promise benefits to any employee. The employer has ample opportunity to make known its views of collective bargaining, beginning with an orientation session informing new hires that the company is non-union and prefers to engage in individual dealings with employees rather than through a third party. Employees understand completely the employer's sentiments. How much more communication is necessary?

More importantly, the best scholarship on the subject shows that voting behaviors are based on long-term and deeply held attitudes about unions and the specific employment itself. Workers who are favorable toward unions and not generally satisfied with their job will vote for representation; those satisfied with their job and not supportive of unions will vote against unions. Law professor Julius Getman, who conducted the classic study of voting behavior, recently published another book describing in elaborate detail that union organizing is a lengthy, arduous, and very personal process. Updating the election process hardly amounts to a significant change in the labor-management landscape.

In any case, the increasingly virulent attacks on unions simply continue to undermine the economic foundation of the American middle class. The popular new book Winner-Take-All-Politics by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson convincingly explains how declining unionism helped to facilitate the massive transfer of wealth beginning in the 1970s from average wage earners to the richest tier of our society. If the NLRB's improvement of its operations gives even a few more workers a fair chance to vote for a voice on the job, society stands to benefit from the change. 

Raymond L. Hogler is Professor of Management at Colorado State University.