Apparently, in the alternate universe Republicans inhabit, socialism is on the march and the attack against the “free market” is unrelenting. Where? At the National Labor Relations Board, of course. The truth is—shocking, I know—quite different, and it speaks volumes about the playing field for workers in the real world.
The NLRB has been under relentless, broad attack from the Republican Party. What terrible things has the NLRB done in recent times?
Well, it issued rules that would speed up elections. Ain’t that an awful thing? Rather than hold an election months and, sometimes, years after workers petition for that right, the NLRB put out rules that were “intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and postelection procedures and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing.” But, the party, and its enablers at the Chamber of Commerce, that rails endlessly about “endless” litigation by trial lawyers went ape-shit about a fairly mundane proposal. “This is another, not-so-cleverly-disguised effort to restrict the ability of employers to express their views during an election campaign, to inform employees of the pros and cons of unionization,” said Randel K. Johnson, the chamber’s senior vice president for labor matters.
Yeah. You mean restrict the right of companies to have enough time to identify union supporters and fire them? Or restrict the right of companies to conduct a brutal campaign of intimidation and fear.
The NLRB has become a punching bag for the right-wing lunatics who have never accepted ANY notion of a level playing when it comes to workers’ rights to organize unions.
What the Republican Party—from Michelle Bachmann (who says she would eliminate the NLRB) to Lindsey Graham—have in common is opposition to the rule of law. Because here is what the Wagner Act says:
Employees shall have the right of self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.[emphasis added]
The problem is that, in reality, in the past 40 years, the Republican Party—and, one must be clear, a number of Democrats—has never accepted that notion.
The facts are in the numbers: under Administrations of both parties the percentage of the unionized workforce has continued to decline.
Has the attack been less under Democratic Administrations? Of course.
But, the laws, even in the best of circumstances, do not make it possible for large-scale, mass organizing.
If you want a window on how unhinged the Tea Party Republicans have gotten when it comes to attacking the NLRB, you can watch this debate I took part in about the proposed new election rules, facing off against a former Republican NLRB Commissioner and Larry Kudlow.
The most ludicrous part came actually before I come on: Kudlow had a pre-taped preview with Lindsey Graham, both of whom were outraged that the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board had charged Boeing with illegally retaliating against unionized workers by moving a plant to South Carolina.
In that pre-taped interview, Kudlow calls the Boeing charge the “assault on free market capitalism”, and fingers labor and the NLRB as the “obstacle to growth everywhere”. I wasn’t on camera but I was laughing out loud about the absurdity of those comments.
Just as a matter of economics (I’m putting aside morality and the destruction of the middle class) it is absurd to suggest that the labor movement, which represents 7 percent of workers, can exert any serious effect.
So, before answering the charges that the world was coming to an end because of these tepid new NLRB rules, I wanted to correct two points. First, as I said, Kudlow, like many men, as a very difficult time with the concept of size…there is no such thing as “Big Labor” when it’s been crushed down to 7 percent in the private sector.