NLRB Union Regulation Update

June 16, 2011

The announcement of Boeing was exciting news to our neighbors in South Carolina.  With over a 1,000 jobs coming to the area, the region had reason to rejoice.  But the celebration was cut short as new National Labor Regulation Board (NLRB) union regulation surfaced.

As Boeing began to set up shop in South Carolina, NLRB filed claims that Boeing “shipped” jobs from their Washington facility to South Carolina in retaliation of strikes by union workers.  Though the disruptions from the strikes did prompt the development of the South Carolina facility, the Washington plant did not face demotions, dismissals, wage reductions or other punitive measures.  Boeing’s motives to expand were to geographically diversify, increase production of the Dreamliner jet and to avoid shutdowns (which is easier to do in right-to-work states such as South Carolina).  The addition of the South Carolina facility is supported by Boeing’s collective bargaining agreement, allowing them to locate where they wish.  The NLRB is actively trying to move Dreamliner jobs from South Carolina to Washington as a form of punishment to Boeing, but since the company has not cut jobs in Washington, there-in lies the debate.

On June 21, 2011, the NLRB was making headlines again with new union regulation.  NLRB ruled to allow unions to hold workplace elections promptly.  Currently, after a petition, unions have a voting period of 45-60 days.  During this time employers are able to voice their views and often hire union-focused consulting firms.  Within the same week, the Department of Labor (DOL) unveiled a new proposal to expand reporting obligations for employers under the so-called “persuader” regulations.  This new rule makes it virtually impossible for employers to obtain legal advice needed to exercise statutory rights to express their views during union election campaigns.  These rules essentially give unions the upper hand by eliminating opportunities for employers to voice their opinions during union campaigns.  AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, feels the process is a common sense approach to clean up a broken system.  Opposing this viewpoint, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi argues the shortened period of time eliminates important questions being asked, a dis-service to both parties.

The ongoing regulation battle over our state line and across the United States has brought speculation as to if the main objective of NLRB is to spur union growth.  Union membership has taken a steep decline from 20% to 11.9% and just 6.9% in private sectors.  The proposed regulation could organize more union workers with relative ease and with little say from employers.  North Carolina’s right-to-work status, and distinction as the least unionized state in the nation, should be preserved as an asset and competitive advantage for both employers and employees.