The United Auto Workers (UAW) reportedly spent $5 million on a campaign to establish union representation at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee only to lose in a 712-to-636 vote. The outcome was called a “stinging blow for [the] U.A.W.” by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal simply referred to it as “a crushing defeat.” Given the significance of this epic failure, it is not surprising the UAW is seeking measures that would make it easier to force workers into unions, starting with the ambush election rule.
“Quickie” or “ambush” elections came into being in December 2011 as part of a rule promulgated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The rulemaking drastically cut down the amount of time for an NLRB election, essentially eliminating the potential for the distribution of any real information by the employer on the effects of unionization. The rule change guaranteed that the only story workers would hear is the union story disallowing them from making an informed decision on a matter of great consequence. The original decision quickly elicited an outpouring of concern from the business community, who communicated the rule would restrict employer free speech. After the original rule was proposed, the NLRB received 65,000 comments, most of which were complaints, and as a result, it slightly trimmed back the original proposal, for instance, eliminating the portion giving unions greater access to employee information, but rammed through the rule nonetheless.
The only reason the previous ambush rule never became law was due to a ruling by a federal district court which found the federal agency did not have a quorum when it’s members voted. But earlier this year, the NLRB announced that it was undertaking proposed rulemaking dealing with ambush elections, yet again. And the newly proposed ambush rule is nearly identical to the previously rejected one with one key difference: Obama’s labor board is following through on its effort to make it easier for labor bosses to intimidate and coerce workers by radically expanding the amount of employee personal information that employers are required to give to union organizers. According to the government, despite any worker concerns, business owners will be mandated to hand over to labor organizers an employee’s personal telephone numbers and email addresses.
All of this brings us back to the Volunteer State. In the case of the Chattanooga election, it was called and held in just nine days due in large part to efforts by the NLRB to assist the UAW in organizing the plant. Yet, in spite of everything union bosses had working in their favor, including Volkswagen giving labor organizers limitless access to the facilities and workers, and denying concerned parties equal opportunities to provide information, the UAW lost the vote.
In sum, Big Labor is pushing for payback after investing more than one billions dollars in recent elections in favor of the president and his allies, yet if the vote in Chattanooga is any indication, the ambush election rule will obviously hurt workers and businesses, but won’t guarantee votes in labor’s favor. Our country favors a robust democratic process, under which all parties are privy to substantive information during workplace organizing efforts, not ambush elections that pervert the system. Union bosses fail to comprehend that workers will seek out information about labor’s failures and the job-killing policies bosses espouse, and will continue to reject the formation of collective bargaining units at the ballot box.
Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI).