Thune’s “ambush elections” based on right-wing myths

Myth No. 1: Thune begins with a standard, but unsubstantiated, GOP argument on the economic crisis: employers are reluctant to create jobs because of “regulatory uncertainty.” In reality, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that regulations are costing jobs, but considerable evidence that a lack of regulation of financial markets caused the current crisis. A review of recent studies by the Economic Policy Institute concluded: “Most studies of various industries suggest that regulations had either a close to neutral or small positive effect on employment levels.”

Moreover, the GOP and corporate organizations that are suing to block the board’s new rule – designed to reduce unnecessary litigation and limit unjustified delay in union elections – are the ones responsible for creating uncertainty at the NLRB. And employers in the U.K., Canada and elsewhere have long lived with systems of union recognition that provide for far stricter time limits than those being proposed by the NLRB.

The real problem facing the job market is not “regulatory uncertainty,” but the collapse in demand for goods and services that resulted from the housing and stock market crises. Strengthening fundamental labor rights would help restore that demand and promote economic recovery. Northern European countries with the most robust systems of collective bargaining are among the best performers in productivity, innovation and job creation.

ADVERTISEMENT
Myth No. 2: Thune claims that under the current administration, the NLRB has become “increasingly politicized.” In reality, President Eisenhower first politicized appointments to the labor board in the 1950s, and NLRB politicization reached its apex in the 1980s, when President Reagan appointed to the board Republican members who were hostile to the purpose of the law they were charged with enforcing.

Whenever we get a change in administration, moreover, the new NLRB overturns decisions of its predecessor in so-called “pendulum swings.” But rather than swing the pendulum back to the pre-Bush NLRB era, the current board, in a welcome change, is attempting to swing the pendulum forward to create an administrative framework suitable for the 21st century.

Myth No. 3: Thune states that the NLRB’s “ambush elections” (a term coined by anti-union organizations) would enable labor organizers to “surprise” employers and deny them a “chance to provide information to their employees.”

This is the biggest falsehood of all. First, “employers are rarely caught unaware” by a union organizing campaign, a fact pointed out not by the AFL-CIO but by the financial weekly Barron’s. Second, employers don’t wait until an election is called to communicate their anti-union message, but as pointed out by the L.A. Times, “start pressing the nonunion line on each worker’s first day on the job.” Indeed, many employers retain internal and external specialists whose sole job is to communicate the firm’s non-union position.

Myth No. 4: Thune states that the only ones who would benefit from the NLRB’s election rule are “unions seeking to increase their dues-paying membership.” In reality, those who would benefit are employees at workplaces at which employers and anti-union consultants use delay as a deliberate tactic to undermine free choice.

In one telling episode, House Republicans invited to a hearing to testify against the rule a representative from a well-known union avoidance law firm. In the past, the same firm has advocated using delay as a tactic to undermine employee support for unionization, telling employers “Time is on your side.” So much defending the interests of employees.

Thune’s mythical arguments on labor law demonstrate that we have a political problem regarding labor rights, not a legal one: the GOP opposes fundamental rights that are taken for granted in every other developed democracy, yet it dominates political debate and claims, apparently without shame, to be on the side of employees against the “union bosses.”

In a less cynical and politically polarized time, this intellectual dishonesty and lack of serious debate would be shocking. These days, one should expect no better from the GOP.


Logan is professor and director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University. Between 2000-2008, he was an assistant and
associate professor in the School of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science.